Small claims judgments a new deterrent against those using fake IDs to buy booze

Small claims judgments a new deterrent against those using fake IDs to buy booze

When Michael DiBenedetti, and the two other owners of Amante bar in North Beach were slapped with a $3,000 fine for serving to an underage drinker who used someone else’s driver’s license they decided to take action. Chronicle photo by Kim Komenich in San Francisco. less

When Michael DiBenedetti, and the two other owners of Amante bar in North Beach were slapped with a $3,000 fine for serving to an underage drinker who used someone else’s driver’s license they decided to take . more

When Amante bar in San Francisco was slapped with a $3,000 fine for serving an underage customer who had used someone else’s driver’s license to gain entrance, the owners of the bustling North Beach establishment decided to take action.

They sued the 20 year old woman in San Francisco’s small claims court and last month won a $5,000 judgment. Emboldened by the success of their innovative approach, Amante’s owners, , and , have decided they won’t stop there. They have joined other bar owners to crack down on underage drinkers by turning to the court system to make them pay.

“I definitely think it’s going to send a message,” said Dibenedetti, who has been in the bartending business for 30 years. “Let it be known that all of the bars are going to be doing this, and it’s going to cost these underage kids more than a slap on the wrist. scannable fake id

The tactic rarely has been used, although two years ago another San Francisco bar owner sued two underage drinkers in civil court after being shut down temporarily by the . The suit resulted in a $5,000 court settlement.

But to take such matters to small claims court, where cases tend to be resolved much quicker?

“I know I’ve never heard of it before,” said , San Francisco’s small claims supervisor who has been in the department for 10 years.

Owners of the Amante say they turned to the courts because of the increased difficulty of spotting phony identification cards due to advances in technology used to make them and the steep penalties bar owners face for serving underage customers.

On the first offense, bar owners who are cited by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control face a $3,000 fine or the prospect of losing their license for 15 days.

A second offense results in an automatic 25 day liquor license suspension. Bar owners lose their license and are forced to shut down if there’s a third offense.

Challenging a state fine is a costly and often futile venture. idpurchase.com Amante owners say they spent several thousands of dollars in attorney fees in their unsuccessful fight against the citation.

In contrast, the minor usually faces a misdemeanor fine of about $250.

Bar owners say they also share the state’s goal of trying to deter teenage drinking.

“We don’t want minors to be drinking,” said , owner of the R bar on Sutter Street, which has a doorman who checks identification cards. “It’s like burglars trying to break into your house every night, and if they get in, it’s your fault” in the eyes of the law when they get caught, he said.

, owner of the Blue Light on Union Street, may have been the first to go after underage drinkers in court. In 2002, he was hit with his second offense in three years when two 18 year old women used fake identifications to get into the bar. After he was forced to close for 25 days, he hired a lawyer to take legal action against the women.

The two sides ended up settling last year, when the women agreed to pay Jordan $5,000. fake id

Jordan said he went after the underage drinkers out of sense of justice, not to ruin their names. “It’s a cat and mouse game,” he said. “How do you prevent a minor from getting into your place with this high technology and counterfeit IDs?” he said.

“It’s a nerve racking situation.”

, San Francisco district manager for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said that the agency’s investigators have seen a rise in counterfeit identification cards because of the Internet and agrees that an effective deterrent would be to come down harder on the minors themselves. “The criminal fines on the minor are not severe enough,” he said.

He noted that in Contra Costa, Solano and other counties, officials will suspend an underage drinker’s driver’s license, a policy that has not yet been adopted in San Francisco. “They’ll cry about having their licenses being suspended,” he said. fake id “That’s the deterrent.”