Plain-clothed police, uniformed officers and teenage volunteers will soon help the Isla Vista Foot Patrol ensure that local liquor vendors do not sell alcohol to minors.
Beginning this month, the IVFP will send 19-year-olds into I.V. liquor stores, supermarkets and restaurants to purchase alcohol without showing identification to the store’s clerk. If the clerk asks to see identification, the decoy will present an I.D. showing his actual age of 19. If the clerk sells alcohol to the minor without asking for identification, or ignores the decoy’s actual age as listed on the I.D., police will enter the store and cite the clerk for furnishing alcohol to a minor.
Lt. Tom McKinny said the IVFP will send out letters this week to notify liquor sellers in the area about the decoy program. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies and investigators from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Dept. (ABC) will participate in the sting operations, which will take place on random days over the next 15 months.
“We want to remind business owners that we’re working on the goal of reducing sales of alcohol to minors,” McKinny said. “The goal is not to issue them tickets; the goal is to get them not to sell to minors.”
Owners of several I.V. businesses that sell alcoholic beverages said the identification checking policies already in place are sufficient to turn away people who may attempt to buy alcohol without an I.D. Louis Rodregiez, the manager of Mac’s Market on Embarcadero Del Mar, said the program would not affect his store because its employees already card customers.
“Someone who comes in without an I.D. – there’s no way they’re gonna walk out of here with alcohol,” Rodregiez said.
Rodregiez said he took a seminar about how to spot fake I.D.s last year, and his store is strict about accepting out of state driver’s licenses or passports.
“The way that it’s been going the last few weeks since the ABC’s been here – they’re getting so ridiculous,” Rodregiez said. “All it comes down to is if you have a California I.D.”
The decoy operations are funded through a $50,000 grant from the ABC, which was awarded to the IVFP last December. Five similar grants, which are federally funded through the state’s Office of Traffic Safety, have also been issued to UC Los Angeles, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz and San Diego State University. Grant money is used jointly by the schools and local police to curb the availability of alcohol to minors in the surrounding campus communities.
On the heels of a visit by ABC director Jerry Jolly, who surveyed a Friday night on Del Playa Drive last month, McKinny said the IVFP will apply for an additional $100,000 ABC grant to institute a more effective keg registration and tracking program, among other things.
While the minor decoy program does not target the use of fake cards, McKinny said it will help urge store clerks to be careful and check everyone.
“There are vast quantities of fake I.D.s out there,” McKinny said. “We have a difficult time holding store owners responsible when someone has a great looking fake.”
Indras Govender, who has owned Giovanni’s Pizza on Pardall Road for the past nine years, said his restaurant sees its fair share of fake I.D.s.
“We just turn them away,” Indras said. “We haven’t knowingly sold alcohol to anyone [underage].”
Govender said Giovanni’s has strict rules for selling pitchers of beer; the restaurant only gives out one cup with each pitcher for each valid I.D. presented. When patrons try to subvert the rule by buying a sleeve of plastic cups and handing them out to friends at the restaurant, Giovanni’s staff confiscates them.
“We don’t condone or take any chances with underage drinking,” Govender said. “Our business is too valuable. We don’t want that stigma or the reputation that this is the place you can drink if you’re underage.”
Since the ABC began working with the IVFP this past December to enforce alcohol laws at local businesses, Govender said his restaurant has definitely seen a decrease in beer sales. He said he has heard from his alcohol suppliers that they are also selling less beer in I.V. overall.
Lee Johnson, the manager of I.V. Market on Embarcadero Del Mar, said that although his store does see a large number of fake I.D.s, his clerks follow strict policies to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors.
“It’s just part of doing business,” Johnson said. “We’re on the lookout.”