Copabanana cracks down on underage drinking

Copa requires patrons to sign a "Declaration of Age" if ID is suspect

· September 9, 2012, 10:05 pm

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Copabanana has added some stringent measures to their identification policy in order to crack down on underage drinking.

In response to a raid by state police in April, Copa — located at 40th and Spruce streets — extended its swipe and enter process for bar-goers on Sept. 5, adding more necessary steps to discourage the use of fake IDs.

On April 19, 30 underage minors were cited for underage drinking and possessing false identification at Copa, according to Division of Public Safety records.

Those found in possession of a fake ID had their IDs taken and are required to show up in court. Copa is also required to present a case in court.

In their new policy, if Copa still suspects a customer is under 21 after he or she presented an ID and swiped in the scanning machine, then it will make the customer sign a “Declaration of Age” document, according to Copa bar manager Michael Whitaker.

The “Age Dec” serves as a record for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board that includes the customer’s written oath that he or she is “of full age and discretion and over the age of 21 years.” The PLCB has the right to supply the “Age Dec” card to any appropriate law enforcement agency.

The document requires the serial number of the identification card along with the signature, address and birth date. It also states the potential legal consequences of any misrepresentation, which include a fine of $300 and 60 days of imprisonment, among others.

After the customer signs the slip, Copa then withholds the ID and stows it in a container organized alphabetically by name until the customer leaves.

The use of the “Age Dec” also places the burden of penalty on the individual who signed the slip, not Copa. According to Whitaker, since customers are basically swearing they are 21, “they are then at fault, not us.”

“This is what the Liquor Control Board requires. This is the only way we won’t get in trouble,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker said that Copa is currently on high alert because “the last thing we need is state police coming back in here and finding … underage kids.”

The legal case against Copa is largely due to many of the underage customers claiming they were not carded at the door.

Before the raid, Copa had been using a video system that snapped pictures of those entering and presenting their IDs in addition to the restaurant’s ID scanning machine. Copa will present video records in court as evidence that they card patrons.

“We have always carded everyone,” Whitaker said.

He does not have much faith in the swiping machine alone, however, because “nobody will buy an ID that doesn’t scan.”

A College junior, who wishes to remain anonymous because he was involved in the April raid, said he will not be returning to Copa until he turns 21.

“I haven’t gotten another fake … it definitely worries me, and it makes me more careful,” he said.

Kevin Kearney, owner of The Blarney Stone, also said, “It is tough to do your job these days with the websites and computer programs that kids use to duplicate IDs, but you do your best.”

Looking forward, Copa is not very concerned about their future business and turnout.

“We were packed last week for Copa Wednesday,” Whitaker said. “We still see a lot of students.… As long as you’re 21, we don’t have anything to worry about.”

Kearney, however, commented on the unfortunate repercussions of the raid.

“[A raid] is not an experience you would wish on anybody,” he said. “That happens, and then no one wants to come in and have a good time.”

A Wharton senior who chose to remain anonymous due to the nature of the subject postulated that Copa started becoming stricter with IDs “once the crowd was no longer strictly Penn students,” like it seemed when he was a freshman and sophomore.

He added that even though being required to sign something might “scare people away,” he has heard that the bar has the potential to bounce back.

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