Eighty-seven underage patrons were detained by the Liquor Control Commission following a raid of Toad’s Place Saturday night as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of underage drinking at the popular New Haven nightclub.
Toad’s owner Brian Phelps said no arrests were made, but all of the detained students possessed fake identification and were questioned by Liquor Control agents.
There are currently no plans to shut Toad’s down, Phelps said, but he expects a hearing on the incident to occur sometime in January.
Phelps said his nightclub staff strictly checks identification for students who wish to enter the club.
“We have a process we go through to ensure that students who are not old enough to drink do not get in,” he said. “First, they have to show their IDs to bouncers in the front [of the club]. Then, we scan the IDs. If we still aren’t sure, we have them fill out age of consent forms.”
Still, Phelps said students may have fake IDs that look realistic enough to fool the scanner used by bouncers at the club’s entrance, and some Yale students said they find it easy to enter Toad’s without real identification.
Jonathan Koenig ’08 said students build relationships with specific bouncers, who then let them into the club with a fake ID.
“At the beginning of the year, they’re pretty strict,” he said. “But as time goes on, you start to get to know a bouncer. They know your face, and it becomes much easier after that to get in.”
Some Yale students have set up a group on thefacebook.com with members who claim to know one of the bouncers personally. The bouncer, the group’s description says, allows students into the nightclub despite knowing they are underage.
While Phelps said he did not know of any such group, he said he found allegations that bouncers knowingly let in students who are underage disturbing.
“If I ever found out the specific individual who did that, I would fire them,” he said. “I’m facing serious penalties because of this.”
Phelps said he hopes the nightclub will not face severe penalties for serving alcohol to underage drinkers because they used scanning equipment to try and detect the IDs. Connecticut liquor laws state that if nightclubs scan IDs and sell alcohol to underage patrons who go undetected, they will not be held liable.
But Phelps said the LCC could charge his nightclub with failing to match ID pictures to the faces of their owners.
“I’ll definitely institute some changes depending on what we hear from the Commission,” Phelps said. “We want to comply with the law.”
Many students said they would be upset if Toad’s were forced to close temporarily.
“It’s such an integral part of Yale social life,” Cristina Hession ’07 said. “If Toad’s closed down, students would be scattered at bars all across town and it would definitely be less cohesive.”
Toad’s was last raided due to complaints of serving alcohol to minors in September 2001. The club was fined $25,000 and was forced to shut down for a week on 12 specific violations of Connecticut liquor statutes, including selling alcohol to minors.