Those who frequent downtown businesses on weekend nights can attest the vibrancy that has become downtown Salem. By late afternoon, it is not unusual to see places filling up with those out for a burger and a beer at Major Magleashe's or some delicious pasta and a good red wine at Cafe Graziani.
Salem, along with Beverly, has become a destination for the dining and drinking crowd. This is good for everybody, but like anything else, it brings some negative with the positive. Among the many are residents looking for a relaxing night out are more than a few who have done a little pregame drinking in anticipation of painting the town red.
In 1977, when I was 17, the drinking age in Massachusetts was 18. Times were different then. There were not as many teens driving in those days. None of my friends had regular access to a car. The local college age population was much smaller than it is today.
Every weekend during that summer we would visit a few of the local drinking holes. Seldom were we asked for Identification. A normal night would find us sharing some beers down at Derby's Wharf prior to heading out for the rest of the night. many nights found us at Jonathan's Night Club where we once heard "Smoking" Joe Frazier sing with his back-up girls known as "The Knockouts". We would also frequent the old 300 Derby Street.
My guess is the wait staff knew a few of us were underage, but as long as we behaved ourselves they didn't worry about us. As I said, it was certainly a different world thirty-five years ago.
We were wrong in 1977, and these kids are just as wrong today.
We now are faced with a much larger group of younger people, both locals and college students who have full access to cars, and much more access to ready cash.
Much of that cash goes toward "recreation". That can include not only drinking but also drug use. It can also be used for the purchase of phony identification. Not so long ago phony ID's were much easier to spot. The technology used by those who manufacture and sell these fake ID's has advanced tremendously. It is very difficult to recognize a phony license these days.
There is technology now to help those in the liquor business as they work to establish whose ID is real and whose is not. This equipment can cost up to $5,000 to purchase. There is also a charge that comes with updating software as different states change their identification card formats.
As with everything else the technology is not perfect and can be fooled. A machine can tell you that the ID is real, and that the name and birthdate match, but it can't tell you that the photo has changed. Two businesses that I spoke with last week experienced that failure of technology very recently. Both realized their errors later, when problems developed and further questions were asked.
Two businesses were held responsible in the last two weeks for serving under age patrons. At least some of these customers produced phony identification. New Jersey and Connecticut ID's seem to be popular choices these days.
It is just as important that those that purchased, possessed and used those ID's also be held responsible. You can't pin this all on the business owner, bar tender, wait staff or door guy.
The ne'er-do-well that bought and used the phony identification needs also to be held accountable under the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 138, sections 34A and 34B which call for fines and license suspension.
Maybe a little community service, cleaning the rest rooms after a busy Saturday night would also be beneficial.