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Original post made
on Dec 10, 2007
> Decoys were denied alcohol at the Palo Alto Fountain
> and Grill, Fleming's Steakhouse, California Pizza Kitchen,
> Pizza My Heart, Sushi Tomo and the Coupa Café.
Coupa Cafe has been previously cited for serving alcohol to minors.
Considering the recent spate of violent & weapons-involved crime in and around Palo Alto, is this really the best use of limited Police department resources?
When she was still a young detective in the 1970s, Chief Johnson reportedly helped wipe out prostitution on El Camino by posing as a masseuse. Does she see decoy policing against the scourge of alcohol as an easy win to help take our minds off violent crime and gain support for a new building? Nah, that would be cynical!
Wonder what the Palo Alto Police would say if restaurants decided to card every one who looked like they might be under twenty-one, and called for a squad car to come to the restaurant each time that a young person was "caught" trying to order alcohol illegally.
While it might not be a crime for the teenage to try to buy illegally, there is no reason that the restaurant should not ask for an "incident report" to document its history of trying to comply with state/local laws restricting sales of alcohol to minors.
At some point, the police would have to respond to a call where one of their decoys was involved. Whether the Palo Alto Police would admit to the restaurant that this young person was a decoy is an open question. Hard to tell, given the current Chief's insularity.
One can only wonder if the police are picking the restaurants that they check randomly, or if they are spying on them before sending in decoys?
We were out of the state this summer having dinner in a very nice restaurant. One of the people with us looked young, left his ID at home and was not served. When someone at the table commented, the server told us he was subject to a personal fine of $5K if he served a minor - a great deterent.
what would spying do to help?
lesson learned- yes, some restaurants have "learned" from their past serving-the-decoys but its difficult to say that they are "now a restaurant that will not serve to minors". there are hundreds of waiters/bartenders who could slip up on any given night.
and.... some restaurants have passed the first round of decoys, DIDNT pass the second round, and passed the third. so statments of restaurants being "great by not serving alc to minors!" is hard to believe because those restaurants might have failed previous decoy operations, OR WILL FAIL THE NEXT ROUND...
We can waste $500k for a broken website and use police resources to cite restaurants for serving alcohol, but we can't take care of the violent crime??
Palo Alto needs to stop being a crime target.
If they are going for alcohol offenses, I'm ALL for random road block checks. I'm sure some of us will whine and cry for the delay, but drunk driving is a form of violent crime. It affects ordinary and innocent people.
To Lesson Learned, Lavanda has also been cited. They must not have learned any lessons and I have to wonder if the ABC will let them keep their license now. Funny that Coupa Cafe does not have alcohol as a mainstay of their menu and they got the message, but Lavanda, who obviously bills itself as a wine bar, did not...
First: serving alcohol to minors is wrong, and should be firmly discouraged. It's a violation for good reason.
That said, what irks me about this is that minors are constantly testing the system anyway. How many times do you see the authorities entering a restaurant and asking _patrons_ who are drinking for ID? It doesn't happen.
Do restaurants want to lose their liquor licenses? Of course not. Do restaurants do everything they can to prevent that from happening? Of course they do (most of them). Can a restaurant control the behavior of any one of their servers, every day and night of the week, in a crowded, fast-paced restaurant? Of course not.
THis is not about making excuses for places that serve alcohol. I understand that we should be testing restaurants for broken systems, but we should be _helping_ them to create more foolproof systems for catching violators.
THousands of local late teens who attend local universities, or attend high school has a fake ID. Ask around; you can get fake IDs for $50, or less - almost on demand. Why aren't we going after that?
I'll bet hard cash that police personnel walking through MOST bars, and many restaurants - doing random ID checks - would nail _many_ offending underage drinkers who are using fake IDs. Why aren't we doing that? Why should any ONE of the parties to underage drinking (in this case the underage drinker with a fake ID, or someone who has lied about his age to a naive or incompetent server) get away with breaking in the law.
In a way, these "decoy" sweeps seem designed to punish only one of the perpetrators (the serving establishment), and protect the other (the violating minor). Why is that?
Another thing: the above-mentioned problem with fake IDs is epidemic. What has been happening is that underage kids by the many thousands in the Bay are (and elsewhere) have been using fake IDs, and slowly conditioning many servers to slip up. If you're a server, and you're 'carding' dozens (sometimes hundreds) of patrons every day, and they all appear "legit", it's easy during a busy moment to make a wrong assumption. The latter should be discouraged, but it's going to happen from time-to-time.
My question: why is it that we're not citing underage drinkers as they imbibe, and not going after the fake ID mills?
I think our police department is a great unit; they do a fine job, but we have to look at this as a systemic problem, and consider that we're talking about taking the very livelihood away from restauranteurs when we take their liquor licenses, for a violation that may in fact represent a tiny fraction of the restaurant's behavior, relative to selling alcohol.
Bottom line: we should be citing restaurants, but should not be pulling their liquor licenses unless they fail 2-3 more times __within a short period of time__. We need to be sending decoys into these places immediately after a violation to see if there has been a "lesson learned". If not, then a licensing penalty makes sense.
We also need to be doing spot checks of patrons in restaurants. Why not? If underage drinkers know this could happen, with a stiff fine attached (say, $1000 for a first offense - matched by the serving establishment) - kids might be more cautious about underage drinking.
In any case, we need more education on the ravages of this problem, because some teens will (and do) find a way to drink, whether they are using fake IDs or not.
And, where are the random road checks, especially at strategic egress points downtown, at late hours, etc., etc. Let's be more strategic about stopping and deterring teen drinking.
What you say makes a lot of sense. And, if my teen is caught with a fake id or drinking out and about, I will certainly find ways to curtail this although it is definitely more difficult when they have turned 18.
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