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Crystal and The CI are located on Court Street, in Athens, Ohio, Nov. 4, 2023.

Bar employees adjust to to underage drinking, capacity violation crackdowns

Correction appended: a previous version of this article incorredtly identified a source as Mason Newberry. It has been updated to the correct name, Mason Deberry.

Ohio University welcomed another record-breaking class this academic year, and bars in Athens had to prepare for more underage drinkers attempting to get into their establishments.

On top of the underage drinking crackdown by the Athens Police Department, or APD, according to a previous Post report, as well as higher punishments for going over building capacity, Court Street’s main attractions have their hands full.

Many students spending their weekends on Court Street can easily notice an increased police presence. While some bars do not experience frequent police checks, bar employees have still observed a higher volume of police actions.

Jacob Motta, a first-year graduate student studying business and a bartender at Lucky’s Sports Tavern, has noted a larger police presence outside of the bars.

“For the first four or five weeks of the semester, I was still a barback before I became a bartender, so I was at the front door checking IDs,” Motta said. “As I would watch the street, I definitely noticed a lot more cops roaming around … they'd stay parked on the street and keep an eye on everything.”

Additionally, some bar employees have noticed more police walking in and out of the businesses they work for.

Mason Deberry, a sophomore studying finance and a barback and bouncer at Red Brick Tavern, has seen more and more police officers actually walk into bars.

“(Police are) typically in (the bar) at least once a night,” Deberry said. “They go in, do a little walk around. They're there a lot more this year than when I was working last semester.”

Deberry noted that officers interact with bargoers very often when they do a walk-through as well.

“They usually talk to people almost every time they go in,” he said. “Sometimes they go in and they just stand there and kind of hope that that's enough to scare anybody who's potentially underage.”

Some bars have not experienced an increase in police walk-throughs or checks. In contrast, even on weekends, certain businesses may not see a single officer, and they may only get a visit from APD on big weekends. 

Jack Johnson, a junior studying political science and a bartender at The Pigskin, shared his experience –or lack thereof–with the police in the bar where he works.

“I have not, but in previous years, I mean, they would just walk in no questions,” Johnson said. “Even this Halloween, I wasn't really dealing with a (high police presence) like I did in the years before. Usually, my manager will tell me if I'm going to have an undercover come in. I'm supposed to be aware of it and look for the name and the date on their ID. But this Halloween, it was not like that.”

A big issue for the bars this year is also complying with the capacity rules set by the Athens Fire Department. Maintaining compliance with these capacity numbers is a high priority for bars, alongside preventing underage drinkers from entering.

“The fire marshals are really cracking down on capacity,” Motta said. “That's been a really big thing. Capacity has always been something that we had to watch for. Especially at the start of this new semester versus last semester before the summer started.” 

Motta also shared that the bar owners have had meetings with local safety officials to ensure compliance from the local bars.

“I know that the fire marshals had a meeting with all of the bar owners and were like, ‘If you're caught over capacity, there's going to be bigger or some repercussions for you,’” he said. “Which again, plays into not letting underage people in to keep the crowd down.”

According to Deberry, certain bars in Athens may be targeted by police because of their reputations. However, those bars still have a commitment to create a legal and safe environment for their patrons. Deberry is hopeful the reputation of the bar he works at will improve.

“There's kind of this reputation that Red Brick has of being the freshman bar,” Deberry said. “I don't know about past years, but I know that now that's starting to really (change) in the sense of, we care about doing what's right. I know there've been many moments where I've had to break up fights or kick somebody out who was making other people uncomfortable, things like that. I think overall, from what I've heard … it's becoming a much better environment.”


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