Underage drinkers sense crackdown on College Hill

Friday, September 7, 2007

In these first days of the academic year, Spiritus Fermenti owner Connie Gray said she has seen more than the usual number of fakes IDs, including over 30 last Saturday alone.

“I saw more in the last two days than in my entire career,” chimed in a co-worker at the Meeting Street liquor store.

Gray said plainclothes Providence Police officers sometimes visit her store, watching the employees check IDs. More recently, though, Department of Public Safety officers have been watching students leave the store, asking younger-looking scholars to show their Brown IDs, which the officers can then swipe to confirm the pupils’ ages.

Whether on-campus or at student favorite Fish Co., where at least three Providence Police officers watched over more rigorous ID checks at the bar’s Brown Night Wednesday, students are reporting a notable uptick in the level of enforcement of underage drinking laws.

One senior, who requested anonymity because she is underage, said she lined up outside Fish Co. Wednesday night but decided to return to campus after seeing police lurking and bouncers asking for second IDs.

Another frequent, underage Fish Co. patron, who also requested anonymity, ultimately got in to the bar but noted bouncers were sending people home.

“I have a pretty good ID, and I look older – I’m no babyface – so I was able to get in,” the junior said. “The bouncer stopped the girls in front of me and said, ‘You guys go to Brown. You should have better fakes than this,’ and then sent them away.”

Margaret Klawunn, associate vice president for campus life and dean of student life, said Providence Police – not Brown – is responsible for any recent law enforcement appearances at Fish Co.

“A lot of motivation for this is from the residents of downtown Providence, who are worried about what happens after the clubs close,” Klawunn said.

She added that University officials are cognizant of the effect underage drinking can have on Brown’s neighbors. “We’ve been concerned and have had conversations with local council members and Providence Police,” Klawunn said. But, she added, the University had no connection to the increased security at Fish Co. on Wednesday.

While authorities focus on enforcement efforts off the Hill, the University has kept its eye on students living on the East Side.

Students living off-campus received a routine e-mail Thursday from Klawunn warning them that DPS and Providence Police will act to enforce local noise and trash ordinances and that serious infractions could result in University disciplinary proceedings.

Klawunn said Providence Police fined some off-campus Brown students over the weekend for a noise violation, and the University has already received some complaints from local residents.

“You assume all the risks associated with state and city laws regulating consumption of alcohol, noise ordinances and public safety when you sponsor a party at your off-campus apartment,” the e-mail read.

Back at Spiritus Fermenti, Gray said she and other employees try to do their part by “focusing on the 21st birthday as the rite of passage,” by offering a 20 percent discount to those buying the store’s products on their 21st birthday.

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