State alcohol board to decide Boat’s fate
Teresa Fralish | Tuesday, September 7, 2004
More than 19 months after a major police raid on The Boat Club, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission is expected to decide today whether the popular student bar will ultimately sink or sail. Though the bar managed to bounce back after suffering the largest raid in South Bend history – citing 213 underage patrons on Jan. 24, 2003 – today’s decision could finally force The Boat Club to go under. If the August recommendation of the local South Bend alcohol and tobacco board is any indication, the state commission will not renew The Boat Club’s license. Typically, the ATC follows the advice of the local board. The commission is a four-member panel that votes yearly on whether to renew liquor licenses for Indiana bars. It is separate from the ATC prosecutor’s office, which negotiated penalties for the student citations issued by Indiana Excise Police following the bust.Initially ATC prosecutor Fred Bauer proposed that The Boat Club’s license be sold or revoked, but Bauer and The Boat Club later settled on a $5,000 fine and one-week suspension. However, Bauer has said he will waive the suspension if the bar goes one year without any more underage violations. Due to government offices being closed for the Labor Day holiday, state and local officials could not be reached Monday for comment.The penalties faced by The Boat Club are light in comparison to sanctions received by South Bend bars involved in similar police raids. Generally, raided bars have been forced to close and sell their liquor license. At a January 1998 raid of Bridget McGuire’s Filling Station, police cited about 150 students. The ATC revoked the bar’s liquor license, and the tavern later reopened as a coffeehouse under the same management. When The Library Irish Pub, then known as Finnigan’s, was busted in October of 2000, the bar remained open, but was forced to sell its license to new owners. Police cited about 150 Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students in that raid. In making the decision on penalties for The Boat Club, Bauer cited reports from excise police who monitored the bar for 19 months and found no evidence of further minor in a tavern violations. For its part, The Boat Club maintains that it has implemented more stringent measures aimed at keeping underage drinkers out, such as requiring patrons to show two forms of identification. But as to whether The Boat Club consistently adheres to these standards, student opinion is mixed.”They’re pretty tough,” Boat Club regular and junior Tony Gill, 22, said. “They’ve been requiring two forms.”However, other students had an easier time.One male underage junior, who declined to give his name, said The Boat Club did not carefully check his ID. “This was the week before school started,” the student said. “I actually just walked in unchecked.” Another male junior said he borrowed a friend’s ID of skeptical quality to enter the bar.”The friend I borrowed the ID from was of a different race than me,” he said. Before Indiana Excise Police raided the bar in January 2003, popular belief among students was that the bar would never be busted despite allegedly lax standards. The Boat Club is not the only South Bend bar facing possible sanctions from the ATC as a result of underage drinking violations. The Library Irish Pub, formerly known as Finnigan’s, could also be closed by the ATC board. Excise police have raided the bar three times since fall 2000, including in this past April, April 2003 and October 2000, netting 20, 51 and 150 patrons respectively. The local board has yet to make a formal recommendation to the state commission, however, local officials have said they strongly favor closure of The Library, according to The South Bend Tribune.