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ABC Board cracks down on underage drinking

Bobby Atkinson

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El Rincon Latino Bar and Grill, a popular Mexican restaurant on The Strip, is in trouble with the Tuscaloosa ABC Board for allowing underage drinking, according to ABC officer Lt. Amy Pailette.

“El Rincon was serving to minors, but I’m not sure how many minors were caught,” Pailette said. “Administrative action was taken.”

The extent of the administrative action taken against El Rincon was not specified, and no one from the restaurant commented on the ABC Board’s disciplinary actions against the Mexican restaurant. Pailette said the check on El Rincon was a random check.

“We use a couple of different methods to check for underage drinking,” Pailette said. “Sometimes, we send agents in to check IDs, and sometimes, we use a minor operation detail where we send a minor into an establishment, and they try to get in and purchase alcohol.”

While El Rincon is likely to continue business as usual after this run-in with the ABC Board, the possible implications of getting caught serving to minors by ABC agents keeps most local business owners diligent in their effort to prevent underage drinking.

Jeremiah Jones, owner and manager of Jupiter Bar and Grill, said the price of getting caught serving to underage drinkers is too high. As such, Jones said the Jupiter has a “one-strike” policy, kicking out anyone caught drinking underage or buying drinks for someone underage.

“I pay tens of thousands of dollars in liability insurance, and my staff is trained to the ABC standard,” Jones said. “I’m not here to let kids get drunk and spend Momma and Daddy’s money. I have a wife and kids at home. I’m liable for my bar. If I get in trouble, my kids won’t go to college. I have a lot to lose.”

Jones, whose bar was randomly checked by ABC on Thursday, said that even though his staff at Jupiter takes all possible precautions, underage drinkers still slip by security with expensive fake IDs that would fool even a veteran ABC agent. Not to mention, those innovative underage drinkers that slip by ABC with quick thinking.

“I personally saw an [ABC] agent walk up to a kid on Thursday night and ask him for his ID,” Jones said. “Then when the agent looked away for a second, the kid threw his wallet into the [Jupiter] kitchen and claimed he didn’t have his wallet and was never asked for an ID.

“It just goes to show that we can’t always control things,” Jones said. “I don’t have a crystal ball.”

Underage drinkers have been attempting to outsmart bars since the drinking age was enforced, and many of them had no problem getting away with it. However, UA students under 21 years old have noticed a decreasing ease in getting away with drinking at bars.

“I used to be able to just show my ID, get X’s on my hands for being under 21 and then wash the X’s off and order a drink,” said Tyler McDonald, 20, a junior majoring in secondary education social sciences. “But now, they all are more strict and give out wristbands instead of marking X’s.”

Jones said that while being strict on IDs and having a one-strike policy gives many customers a reason to complain about his bar, a reputation of following ABC guidelines is better for business than most people realize.

“If you get in trouble for selling to minors, it can ruin everything,” Jones said. “Property owners and bar owners want to have a reputation for following the

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ABC Board cracks down on underage drinking