Dram Shop Expert

Litigation Support and Expert Witness Services

ND: Fargo crackdown on minors drinking intensifies

ND: Fargo crackdown on minors drinking intensifies
One bar with a forensic scanner is finding 25 to 30 fake IDs on weekend nights.

By Barry Amundson
March 16, 2022

FARGO — Fargo’s Liquor Control Board and police are planning to continue the crackdown on the serving of minors in establishments after 15 businesses failed alcohol compliance checks in the past few months and hundreds of fake IDs have been confiscated.

The board is planning to meet with smaller groups of bar owners in the next few weeks to seek ways to help in the situation.

Board member Kay Schwarzwalter said she views the serving of minors as a “major problem” in the city.

“We have to remember that alcohol is a potentially lethal drug and we have to protect the public,” she said.

She suggested meetings with the business owners and other potential moves such as possibly increasing penalties or also to reward those businesses doing well in taking fake IDs.

She said servers who pass compliance checks could also possibly be rewarded with a $25 gift card.

City Auditor Steve Sprague, who oversees licensing, told the board that one bar has purchased a forensic ID scanner purchased at a price of more than $5,000 and has been confiscating 25 to 30 fake IDs every weekend night.

Another bar has also had “terrific success” in stopping minors with fake IDs using a scanner, he said. The bars didn’t want to be identified.

Sprague said the “word is out” among minors that they shouldn’t go to those bars as they will take the IDs. “So they are going other places,” he said.

Police Chief David Zibolski, who has also been working for months on the situation, said they were seeing “more failures than in recent years” under the compliance checks that are conducted by the Fargo Cass Public Health team who use an underage person with their real ID.

FCPH Community Health Educator Preston Nesemeier said they usually conduct about four checks a year with police at businesses, but will do more if needed. He said he didn’t really know if the number of people using fake IDs is increasing, but board member Robert Nelson said it has been an issue for decades and the problem will likely continue.

At the board’s Wednesday, March 16, meeting, the members voted to uphold the up to $500 fines for servers from five of the six businesses that failed the last check on Feb. 16. Seventeen businesses passed the check.

The board had a tie vote, with one member absent, on the decision for the Crave restaurant whose operator pleaded his case before the board about just returning to the city within a day of check and not having a handle on the servers.

With the tie vote, the decision on the fine and ticket of serving a minor will go to the Fargo City Commission.

The issue of required server training was also discussed with Nesemeier noting that they have increased classes to about three to four a month. Board Chairman and City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn suggested maybe an online course could also be offered.

Nelson in looking at the side of the businesses said he realizes the tough labor market and finding and keeping employees. If someone serves a minor, they probably get fired but then just on to the next job.

He also said he realizes police can’t be chasing down a bunch of fake ID reports on weekend nights.

Zibolski said they have been able to respond to a few calls to issue citations recently as downtown resource police officers have been working on the issue, too.

Nelson said he believes the “vast majority” of liquor businesses take the issue of serving minors seriously, especially with insurance costs going up and possible liability if problems occur.

He suggested the board could “show more understanding” with the businesses and that the upcoming meetings could be helpful in finding ways “we can help them, too.”

Liquor Board Chairman and City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn had some of the same ideas and noted he has brought up repeatedly the move by state legislators in the last session to reduce the penalty and fine for minors consuming alcohol while the city is trying to crack down on the serving of minors.

Sprague and Zibolski believe the use of more ID scanners, with the price likely ranging from about $500 to $1,000 for most, is one way to continue to make headway with the possibility of requiring bars to have such scanners.

Sprague also agreed the liquor business “is difficult” and that finding some type of balance in oversight is something they should strive to find. He told the board he was willing to set up the meetings with some business owners to discuss solutions, with Piepkorn adding that they should have a special liquor board meeting to discuss suggestions or solutions that result from the informal talks.