FORT COLLINS - A popular Old Town Fort Collins music venue has once again been forced to temporarily stop selling alcohol after admitting to serving minors.
Fort Collins police caught multiple underage drinkers inside the Aggie Theatre in November, the second time this year. The theater was forced to halt alcohol sales for five days this spring to settle similar complaints from police.
"He's trying to do some things, but the fact of the matter is there were underage people drinking, multiple underage people drinking," Old Town police supervisor Sgt. Dean Cunningham said Friday. "We do take these kinds of violations very seriously."
The new violations came with a stiff punishment: a 20-day suspension. The theater has already served some of those punishment days, but must still halt alcohol sales on Jan. 3, Jan. 4, Jan. 5, Jan. 10 and Jan. 16. In Fort Collins, liquor licensees are usually given a relatively light punishment for a first offense, but establishments are told clearly that a second violation in a year will be much heavier.
Theater managers have already altered operations in an effort to eliminate underage drinking in the bar by segregating minors from drinkers. They took that step last month after being told they were under investigation for once again serving minors, Cunningham said.
"We wanted to get compliance ... but not put the business out of business," he added.
After his first violation this spring, Aggie owner Scoo Leary in March installed breathalysers to ensure that minors weren't arriving drunk.
Aggie manager Kyle Stych said on Friday that the negotiated settlement agreement between the Aggie and the city means the theater can remain open for "dry" shows, which is better than being closed entirely. He said the punishment days will cost the theater money.
"(Alcohol) is a big source of revenue for us," he said. "We could go 21-plus, but we'd cut out a lot of fans."
Cunningham said Fort Collins police officers work with bar owners to educate them on their responsibilities when it comes to serving alcohol. He said the Aggie is unusual in the city because it often offers all-ages shows. Most bars simply prohibit minors from even entering, even though state law doesn't actually require that.
"We do education first. If they're not listening, we have to gain some compliance through deterring their actions," Cunningham said. "Inevitably, it's up to the business owner to decide how they conduct business."
(Copyright © 2013 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)