A teenager walks into a club, approaches the bar and asks the bartender for a drink. In Windsor, nightlife brings thousands out to the downtown core, there are several places that sell and serve alcohol, but whether or not they card their under-age guests is the question.
Under the Liquor Licence Act, serving alcohol to minors is not only against the law. It’s an offense that can lead to charges by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the police.
In 2013, Dave Haas, who owns Tree House Bar in the core of Ouellette avenue, was fined and suspended for serving minors. Haas has said that his overwhelming fines, over $20,000 in his years of operation, were from students using fake identification to get into the bar.
Windsor is a city that flourishes with post-secondary students. Most students start their first year of study straight out of high school, while they are still below the legal provincial drinking age.
“Everyone wants to drink in their first year, everyone believes that’s how one gets the most out of the university experience,” says Cynthia Lopez, a first-year student at the University of Windsor. She explains that it’s easy for most high school and college students to get away with underage drinking in the city, even without a fake ID.
“I took a year off before I came to university so I’m legal and often go out with other friends who are also legal, but there are a couple of my friends who somehow have made their way through lines into certain bars with having their ID’s still saying they are 18 years old. I don’t know how or why bartenders let them in, but they do,” says Lopez.
It’s a bouncer’s job to try and weed out who is legal, and who is not. Lopez mentions that most of the students she’s seen let into clubs looked young but knew the bouncers. “One of my female friends tried getting in with a normal ID saying she was 18 and the bartender let her in. I know these bartenders and I bet even the owners know what they’re doing, and they’re getting away with it,” she adds.
Devon Brown is a student at St. Clair College in Windsor, he says he started going downtown before he was of age. “I grew up in a small town outside of Windsor where the only thing to do as a teenager was drink,” Brown explains. Growing up, he was accustomed to sneaking out to barn parties in the county and witnessed teens abusing alcohol. “Sometimes there were cops, especially when girls as young as thirteen would get alcohol poisoning and have to have their stomachs pumped,” says Brown.
Heavy drinking among youth under the legal age has been holding steady and even increasing with youth over the age of 15. According to the CCSA Youth and Alcohol summary, research “indicates that youth view heavy drinking as a social norm and that the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption are a rite of passage.” The summary states that most youths begin drinking at the age of 13.
In 2007, 25 per cent of people in Ontario between the ages of 12 and 19 years old reported they consumed at least five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the last 12 months. The study was conducted based on 36 public health units in Ontario.
Statistics Canada also released data on youth and alcohol consumption reported by Ontario health units from 2013 to 2014. A total of 12,450 of the population between the ages of 12 to 19 reported consuming alcohol.
The 2013 survey on alcohol consumption rates in the Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada show that nationally, 60 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 19 drink alcohol.
The city of Windsor prides itself in cultural diversity as the fourth most diverse city in Canada. It’s home to an astounding range of nationalities and ethnicities. Mr. Sandip, originally from India, is a parent of two university students in the city. He believes that there would be fewer chances for teenagers to rebel and sneak into bars if they grew up with a European mentality.
“I had my first drink when I was ten years old,” he says. Sandip explains that he never felt the need to sneak around or cause trouble because the way he was introduced to alcohol. As a father, he says that by openly talking about the risks of alcohol, he has raised his children to drink responsibly. “If they are going to drink, I think it’s important that they are safe, rather than saying no and having them get into trouble,” Sandip adds.
Establishments such as the Caesars casino in Windsor card visitors who look under the age of 25 and ask for two pieces of identification. According to Smart Serve Canada, a bouncer or bar owner should card anyone who looks under 25 years old.
If a server is unsure, it is their responsibility to ask for additional ID. For more information about acceptable forms of Identification visit: www.agco.on.ca