Rudy’s and TK’s American Cafe are just two of many New Haven establishments recently raided by the New Haven Police Department as part of a crackdown on liquor law violations.
Over the past four weekends, NHPD officers have inspected approximately 30 bars and clubs in the New Haven area during peak business hours, NHPD spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said, including inspections conducted Friday and Saturday nights at both Rudy’s and TK’s. Despite a TK’s employee’s claim on Sunday that no underage drinkers had been caught during the inspections, Winchester said that underage drinkers were removed from both TK’s and Rudy’s on Friday. Both establishments have been referred to the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission.
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Winchester said this weekend’s inspections, which she sought to distinguish from LCC raids, were part of a large-scale effort by the NHPD to curb violations in establishments with liquor licenses and not in response to any specific complaints lodged against the establishments.
“We’ve been doing this basically with any bar in New Haven, and we haven’t been targeting any particular establishment,” she said. “[Officers] have basically been going around to check if things are in order [and] to make sure establishments are in compliance with liquor laws.”
Patrol officers inspected seven establishments around the city this weekend, Winchester said, looking for various administrative violations. The officers first visit an establishment around 9 p.m. to check for administrative violations, Winchester said, including over-occupancy, not having the liquor license posted and not having the occupancy posted — all “safety issues.”
Though underage drinking is not the main focus of these inspections, Winchester said, the officers also inform workers that they will return after 11 p.m. to check for underage drinkers.
“Then they come back and check IDs,” Winchester said. “He gives them an opportunity in case something is not quite right to fix it.”
Winchester said it was during these second visits that Rudy’s and TK’s were cited for violations. Officers caught one underage drinker at TK’s and four at Rudy’s, she said. The violators were told to leave the bars, but there were no arrests or penalties issued. Instead, Winchester said, the bars were reported to the LCC.
The LCC could not be reached for comment Monday. But LCC administrator Gerald Langlais said on Sunday he had not yet heard of the incidents.
TK’s manager and bartender Nicole Costabile previously told the News that the officers first visited between 10:30 and 11 p.m. and then returned, as they had warned, around midnight that same night. The officers also returned on Saturday night, she said.
Some students who visited Rudy’s between the inspections on Friday or on Saturday said the bar’s bouncer told them about the earlier inspection by police, cautioning the students against trying to use fake IDs to enter the clubs.
“He mentioned that they were raided the night before … basically that [the police] had just raided a bunch of places,” Jen Carter ’08 said.
But Danny Levi ’08 said he was surprised to encounter returning police officers during the second inspection on Rudy’s late Friday night. He said several officers arrived at the bar as he and his friends were leaving.
Though he was surprised by the officers, Levi said, there was nothing especially dramatic about their arrival.
“I was relieved to be 21,” he said. “It was kind of imposing because there were several police officers there, but I didn’t really think too much of it.”
Winchester said the NHPD plans to continue with the inspections in the coming weeks, calling liquor violations a top priority. She said there are some establishments — though not necessarily any inspected this weekend — where there have been problems, including excessive underage drinking, fights and even shootings.
The issue of “problem bars” was listed as a legislative priority for 2007 in a report recently released by the New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s office. According to the report, the city hopes for legislation that would amend state statutes so that municipalities have more strength in curtailing establishments that are nuisances to the surrounding neighborhood.
Recently, sharp controversy had arisen about a Newhallville bar, the Taurus Cafe, where frequent disturbances, including a New Year’s Eve shooting, have led to action by Habitat for Humanity, which built a house nearby. Habitat and city officials have lobbied to have the Taurus’ liquor license revoked.