Bars are caught serving minors

By Jared Fritz

Four local bars – Kam’s, Legends, Radio Maria and Café Luna – have been cited by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission for violating their liquor licenses.

The commission discovered these bars serving liquor to minors Sept. 24 during part of their undercover operation investigating underage drinking.

Out of the 100 bars checked across Illinois, 22 were in the Champaign area. Citations were recently passed out to 30 bars across the state, including the four in Champaign.

The commission has yet to decide how each of these bars will be punished, which could entail anything from fines to revocation of liquor licenses. None of the Champaign bars cited could be contacted.

“They typically do their own investigations throughout the state and we cite the individual sellers because they don’t have the authority to do that,” said Sgt. Scott Friedlein of the Champaign Police Department. “We run compliance checks as well. We tend to have anywhere from 70 to 100 percent compliance, so these numbers are right with what we usually get.”

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    According to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission Web site, serving alcoholic beverages to minors counts as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by any of the following: a fine from $500 to $2500, a jail sentence of up to one year and the suspension or revocation of the liquor license.

    Illinois law can punish underage drinkers with a fine of up to $500 and a maximum 30-day jail sentence.

    Also, a new law states that a minor convicted of purchasing, accepting, possessing or consuming alcohol and with a false identification will have their driving privileges suspended for one year.

    Mike Klemens, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Revenue, which oversees the commission, said the commission does these investigations for a couple of reasons.

    “Drinking can be dangerous for minors,” Klemens said. “Also, there are bars that do follow the law, and they shouldn’t be at a disadvantage for that.”

    Klemens said there are some programs that are trying to reduce underage drinking. A program called TrAIL, or Tracking Alcohol in Illinois, intends to reduce the amount of alcohol that ends up in the hands of Illinois teens.

    “I don’t think the University or law enforcement could really do anything to reduce the amount of underage drinking that goes on,” said Melissa Dunton, junior in LAS. “Lots of it has to do with the students just knowing how to be safe.”

    According to the commission’s investigations division Web site, TrAIL is an investigation that occurs when underage drinking is suspected in an incident that results in a fatality or hospital emergency room visit. The commission’s program, “Don’t Be Sorry,” is tailored toward students, parents and liquor retailers. The program hosts educators and guest speakers who share their personal experiences and consequences regarding underage drinking.

    “If they could bring in real college students as an example, that would be more effective than just having someone like a police officer tell them that (underage drinking) is bad,” said Pat Patino, senior in LAS. “Hearing from students that had bad experiences could help show other students how to be safe.”

    Jess Libby, sophomore in FAA, said she thinks the bars should still be punished because it is illegal.

    “Huge fines should be incurred, but they shouldn’t necessarily have their licenses revoked for good,” she said.