Liquor Control raids New Haven clubs

The New Haven Police Department’s Thursday night raid of Box 63 on Elm Street was just one of three it conducted that evening.

The NHPD caught underage drinkers at two other bars — one at Koji on Temple Street and up to 10 at Club NYX on Crown Street — in addition to the five cited at Box 63, said NHPD spokesman David Hartman. The three raids are part of Operation Nightlife, the NHPD’s initiative to crack down on dangerous nightlife culture in downtown clubs and bars launched last September. The three cited establishments are facing hearings to determine their respective penalties, which will depend on a number of factors including the strictness of their ID-checking procedure, Hartman said.

One prong of Operation Nightlife calls for regular NHPD raids in tandem with agents from the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission, which dictates which establishments are inspected in accordance with state law.

“[The NHPD] tags along with liquor control agents for enforcement, for ticketing of specific violations,” Hartman said. “If there’s someone underage and drinking in an establishment, we issue a fine, but we don’t conduct the raids or inspections per say.”

While liquor control commission agents used to conduct raids generally without a police detail, now state agents are accompanied by NHPD officers whenever they inspect in the New Haven area, Hartman said. The punishment for establishments with underage drinkers can range from a full revocation of liquor license to a fine, depending on the site’s history and the number and circumstances of the underage drinkers.

By allocating additional resources to inspections as part of Operation Nightlife, the NHPD has been able to inspect all bars and clubs the same number of times, Hartman said. He added that the department has received a number of “thank yous” from club owners in the past year.

“It’s no longer a problem establishment being targeted, we go to every establishment,” he said. On Thursday, for instance, liquor control agents not only raided Box 63, Koji and Club NYX, but also visited two other sites that they deemed too sparsely populated to warrant inspection.

While employees at the three late-night destinations raided Thursday declined to comment, four other bar or club proprietors agreed the regular inspections are non-intrusive and important to uphold the law.

Though BAR Pizza on Crown Street has been raided “numerous times” in the five years manager Dan Brodoff has worked there, he said the restaurant has not incurred one violation in its 20 years of operations. BAR experienced two raids at the start of Operation Nightlife last year, but inspections have not occurred very often since then because of the restaurant’s “immaculate record,” Brodoff added.

“[The NHPD] are doing their job. They come through every once in a while to examine the steps we take to stop underage people from coming in,” said Chris Testa, manager of Wicked Wolf Tavern on Temple Street. “It’s management’s responsibility and it’s necessary to make these checks.”

Still, these inspections may not deter underage drinkers. At Box 63, for instance, Thursday’s raid took place around 11 p.m., and many patrons continued to line up outside after the police left.

One sophomore who asked to remain anonymous used a fake ID at Box 63 late Thursday evening after the raid. She said she did not even realize the raid had happened at the time.

Operation Nightlife began after a 30-shot firefight occurred on the corner of College and Crown Streets in September 2010, one block south of Old Campus.

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