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Allston’s alcohol vendors take control of potential underage drinking

Although Allston-Brighton’s characteristically young demographic naturally yields a potential for underage drinking, local alcohol vendors, who have programs open to them for help in preventing alcohol violations, said they have only dealt with such patrons minimally.

Representatives from liquor stores and bars in the area said they have encountered problems such underage purchasers and fake IDs, but they actively seek to prevent resulting violations.

Marc Kadish, the owner of Sunset Grill and Tap, said he has had one or two incidents in the past.

“If you lay down the volume of customers, we probably have just a few who slip through the cracks,” he said. “I don’t know how many 18 to 20 year olds live in a five-mile radius of us. It’s a battle we fight every day.”

Wonder Bar, a popular Allston bar and nightclub, also has been able to avoid issues of underage sales, said business manager Simon Smith.

“[Underage sales violations are] not a problem for us, because we’re very strict about IDs,” Smith said. “We can’t remember the last time we had an incident. Overall, my understanding is Allston bars are pretty good about checking IDs.”

Kadish said Allston-Brighton is not the best place for minors to go in search of alcohol because of the nature of its demographics.

“If I was underage, I don’t know if I’d go drinking in this area,” he said. “I’d go elsewhere where there isn’t such a high concentration of underage kids. In our neighborhood, it’s such a huge issue that we talk about every day and train people for.”

But outside of in-business training, a number of initiatives seek to curb underage drinking in the college-dense city of Boston, including 21 Proof Selling Smart, a program three years in the running.

Sponsored by the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force, Boston Police Department and the Cambridge Prevention Coalition, the program trains alcohol vendors on how to prevent alcohol violations.

Elizabeth Parsons, community coordinator for the ABSATF, said the group has offered the 21 Proof Selling Smart program yearly for the last three years.

“We try to do prevention activities that reach a large number versus targeting individuals,” Parsons said. “Providing training for retailers and bars is one way to reach a large population of people.”

Parsons said there were no recent spikes in alcohol violations in Allston-Brighton that triggered the implementation of the program, but that, according to statistics, it has helped curb the issue.

“We’ve only had six or seven retailers and a few bars that have had a handful of violations a year,” she said. “I’d say that shows there’s consistent support to prevent underage drinking.”

George Kondylis, owner of Oak Square Liquors, said he and an employee attended the third annual program on Nov. 7.

“We were really interested in spotting fake IDs that fool our scanners,” Kondylis said. “They went over some other stuff like how to spot when someone is intoxicated, which sounds simple, but some people cover it up better than others.”

Other alcohol retailers that participated in the program included Chansky Super Market, Dorrs Liquor Mart, Marty’s Big Buys and Reservoir Wines & Spirits. Participants were educated on topics regarding Massachusetts General Laws, valid forms of identification, and penalties for selling to underage patrons.

Ben Serraillier, a manager at Chansky’s who went to the program for the first time in 2012, said he attended because of the threat imposed by underage drinking on his store.

“[Underage sales violations are] a constant problem,” Seraillier said. “It’s a problem for us because our license is on the line. It’s a huge problem that’s also putting the livelihood of our store at risk.”

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