Cracking Down on Underage Drinking

By Leigh Dana

April 14, 2011 Updated Apr 14, 2011 at 7:15 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A Binghamton bar that's lost its liquor license indefinitely comes as no surprise to many college students in the area.

The New York State Liquor Authority says it was blatantly catering to minors, and has been cracking down more frequently on bar owners across the state.

The Rathskeller - many say it was the bar to be at as a college student. "It's been part of my whole college experience," said Rebecca Rogers-Hawson, a Binghamton University senior. "The whole underage drinking thing. It's one of the easiest bars to get into."

On Wednesday, the New York State Liquor Authority took emergency action and suspended the bar's liquor license. It had been cited and fined before -- for serving those underage. The final straw came after the owner admitted to having a DJ announce a fire to get people out of the building when they heard police were conducting surprise checks.

A spokesperson for the Liquor Authority says emergency suspensions like this one are not unique. "We've done about 40 of these in the last 2 years," said William Crowley. "More than half are probably due to minors. A lot of times it will be first offense."

Some people might be thinking since the Rathskeller is closed to drinking, those underage drinkers will head across the street to some of the other bars. But some bar owners tell Action News that won't be the case and they'll be just as strict as they always were.

Although some BU students disagree. "There are some other bars that are pretty easy to get into," said Rogers-Hawson. "They might just go there. Or it might lead to more on campus drinking." Peter Wan, a BU graduate student said, "It's just going to force more people to house parties and more uncontrolled behavior.

The owners of the Rathskeller, Christine Pasquale, Kathleen Pasquale and Andrew Urso also own two other downtown restaurants. They declined comment until after a court hearing.

The bar was also charged for hiring unlicensed security guards, and for lack of supervision. In March, the State Liquor Authority imposed a $5,000 fine for purchasing from an unauthorized source, sale of alcohol for use outside the bar and for maintaining inadequate books and records. In 2008, it was fined $3,500 for failure to supervise the premises.