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Police crack down on underage drinking

Undercover local cops wait outside Darwin, Spiritus, Madeira for underaged customers

Undercover Providence Police officers have started waiting outside local liquor stores to apprehend underaged customers, several sources reported. Two local liquor stores — Darwin Liquors and Spiritus Fermenti — have subsequently purchased ID scanners to verify customers’ identification.

Charles Nikolov, manager of Spiritus, said he bought a new ID scanner Oct. 15 after consulting with the owner of Darwin Liquors. The store is not required to use an ID scanner, Nikolov said, adding that the purchase of the scanner was of his own “free will.”

“I’m just trying to cover my bases,” Nikolov said.

Owner of Darwin Liquors George Darwin said he bought an ID scanner last December after Providence Police officers who were parked across the street from the store apprehended several customers with fake IDs, resulting in a $7,500 fine for the store. 

One of the two students apprehended outside of Spiritus in September, a first-year who asked to remain anonymous due to confidentiality concerns, purchased a bottle of wine from the store. She and her friend were stopped by two undercover cops, who asked to see their IDs.

The two students’ fake IDs didn’t pass the “bend test” — meaning that they creased when bent — and the cops “threatened to run them through the system unless we came clean, so we told them the truth,” she said. The cops refrained from arresting the two because they had told the truth, but they did require them to pay a fine and go to court, she said. “It wasn’t a big deal, but it was annoying,” she added.

Students have reported seeing Providence Police cars parked outside of Spiritus, Madeira Liquors and Darwin Liquors this fall. Unlike Darwin Liquors, neither Spiritus nor Madeira has faced fines or penalties regarding fake IDs or underage drinking. 

Diane Ascencao, manager of Madeira, said she does not plan to buy an ID scanner because she believes they are too expensive and not always accurate. “We have the book that has all the pictures of the IDs from every state. I look at updates online. You just have to educate yourself on what to look for,” Ascencao said.

Though the scanners acquired by Darwin and Spiritus are not police mandated, Darwin and Nikolov said they were necessary investments to protect the integrity of their businesses. “We do our job the best way we can,” Nikolov said.

The Providence Police and the Department of Public Safety did not respond to requests for comment.

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