Bar checks are on the rise in Vermillion. In the first three months of 2023, underage drinking arrests rose by 300% compared to this time last year. Likewise, arrests for fake IDs are up 271%.
According to Vermillion Police Chief Crystal Brady, bar checks have increased due to recent officer hirings after years of short-staffing. In addition, Brady mentioned fake IDs are easier to obtain and very realistic, allowing minors to pass door checks.
During the first three months of 2022, 11 underage drinking arrests were made. In 2023, that number is 44. During the first three months of 2022, seven fake ID arrests were made. This year, that number is 26.
Brady said she would like to feel that the police are on the same side as bar owners. However, one owner opposes the increased police presence downtown.
Patrick Masur, owner of Hollarr Bar, voiced opposition in two Instagram posts.
“From a personal point of view I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into a bar with police presence as it would give me a negative impression about the bar…,” Masur said in a Feb. 24 Instagram post. “I understand police have to do their job, but HOW this is being executed is hurting the bar business.”
“We take great pride in checking each id to ensure all of our GREAT customers are of age,” Masur said on Instagram.
Brady pushed back on the claim that legal patrons feel uncomfortable from bar checks.
“He knows a large portion of his clientele is under 21,” Brady said.
Every alcohol license issued by the city of Vermillion stipulates officers may inspect bars.
“This application shall constitute a contract between applicant and the state of South Dakota entitling the same or any peace officers to inspect the premises, book and records at any time…” per the city’s alcohol license.
Brady and Masur met to discuss his concerns. Masur stated that no agreements had been made with Brady following their meeting.
According to Brady, no other bars have complained about the increase in bar checks.
“Our job is to enforce the law and if the legal limit was 18, that is what we would enforce. But right now, the legal limit is 21,” Brady said. We often get a lot of calls from other people saying it’s out of control, the number of people under the age of 21 that are drinking downtown.”
Brady also expressed her concerns about potential accidents resulting from underage drinking.
“I would absolutely feel awful if something did happen to somebody and it was a direct result of underage drinking from downtown,” Brady said. “That would not be okay. I feel it’s our job to go downtown, enforce the laws that are in place.”
For now, it appears more police will continue to conduct bar checks. For those that go downtown, the Vermillion Public Transit offers a free Safe Ride program from 10 p.m – 3 a.m. Friday and Saturdays.