Underage drinkers slip by Fry Street security

Underage drinkers slip by Fry Street security

Underage drinkers slip by Fry Street security
May 03
13:20 2017

Jillian Selzer | Contributing Writer

Editor’s note: The individual named Reagan in this article is not a UNT student and has no association with the university. 

On Fry Street, there’s only one goal for college students: get as drunk as you can for as little money as possible.

“Dollar Doubles” reign at Public House. Cool Beans boasts $6 pitchers during happy hour. The theme is clear: cheap drinks for customers without spending too much money.

Thursday through Saturday, groups of friends saunter around the area’s two-block boundary, making the rounds at every bar between Hickory and Mulberry to fulfill their Fry Street crawl, an infamous and controversial tradition to many. But a common breed of customers tarnish the silver lining of a night out: underage drinkers using fake ID’s to slip through the cracks.

“It’s kind of scary,” Denton-native Reagan said. “I think about my little sister who’s in high school who looks older. Could she go to Cool Beans and drink a pitcher with somebody? Just thinking about things like that is scary.”

Despite her concerns, Reagan is just one of many underage drinkers using a fraudulent ID to take advantage of the easy access to Fry Street. Her last name has been omitted in order to protect her identity. She has used her ID upwards of 40 times at almost every bar since receiving it in January of this year, just three months shy of her 21st birthday.

As a townie, Reagan’s know-how of sidestepping the drinking laws goes all the way back to her years in high school and culminated when she began tagging along on crawls with her older friends.

She currently possesses an old ID that belonged to a friend of legal age. The physical likeness of Reagan’s appearance to that of the ID has granted her access to Lucky Lou’s, Shots and Crafts, Public House and Tom’s Daiquiri, among others. The bouncers know her. The bartenders know she is underage, yet it’s a weekly occurrence. And she’s not the only one.

“Is it something that can be addressed and can be fixed? Absolutely not,” she said. “There are always going to be those people that want [alcohol] more than [they care about] the consequences.”

Texas law says it is a Class C misdemeanor to own a fake ID, with a possible punishment of up to a $500 fine and up to 180 days in jail. But the punishment escalates to a Class A misdemeanor if the ID is legitimate, but uses a fake identity or was originally issued to someone else–the same type of ID Reagan keeps on hand. The fine then increases to $2000 along with a sentence of up to 180 days in jail.

Bars and restaurants also risk a hard hit to their business if they sell alcohol to a minor. For a first offense, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspends the offending establishment’s liquor license anywhere from eight to 12 days while simultaneously placing a $300-a-day fine on the business. If a third infraction happens, a liquor license may be suspended for at least 48 days or canceled indefinitely.

For bar employees like Jesse Avalos, a bouncer at Cool Beans Bar & Grill, a potential job loss or legal punishment is enough motivation to push back on underage drinking. He is even a member of a Facebook group of Fry Street employees specifically created to communicate any potential wrongdoing by patrons.

“We try really hard to make sure every ID is legitimate,” Avalos said. “It’s just one of those things where people are getting better and better at getting them. Not much more we can do than take our time [checking the IDs.] We have our black light and an ID book and that’s about it.”

So, if the consequences are severe and security is active, why is it popular? And how can it be stopped? TABC Enforcement Agent Beth Gray said it can’t be.

“There’s a bunch of different reasons why [it happens,]” Gray said. “I’m not going to speculate. Being in a college town, there’s going to be a lot of fake IDs. I’ve worked most of my career in Denton and it’s just something I deal with.”

She added that the gap between regulation of the law and the prevalence of fake ID users seems to lie within an inconsistent cycle of enforcement.

Gray said the TABC works regularly with bar owners and employees to actively vet unlawful drinkers but does not work with local law enforcement. It would mean coordinating two different agencies.

UNT police spokesman Kevin Crawford could not be reached for comment.

On the other hand, Avalos claims he doesn’t see the TABC often, but is trained to detect fake identification and turns away minors trying to sneak into the bar. But, according to Reagan, it’s “known” that bouncers spread information about how to gain access, especially if the bouncer has a personal relationship with someone trying to get in. It’s all about knowing the “right people.”

“Yeah it’s bad, but at the same time it’s college,” Reagan said. “It’s everywhere. It’s not just Fry.”

Video by Olivia Martinez

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1 Comment

  1. Adam
    Adam May 03, 23:48

    I’ve collected hundreds of IDs, and don’t appreciate the implication. Come in and see for yourself.

    Reply to this comment

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