For reasons politicians have rarely bothered elucidating since the 1980s, it is illegal for merchants to sell alcohol to people younger than 21. The city's Health Department thinks that peddling booze to kids and young adults is enough of a problem that it recently set aside $147,000 in taxpayer money for a citywide undercover investigation. The dragnet, carried out over six months last year, found that 58 percent of the pharmacies, bodegas, and grocery stores hit were willing to bag up booze for undercover youngsters posing as wild and crazy kids.
The 911 stores targeted represent 10 percent of retailers with liquor licenses, according to a Health Department press release. The crackdown is meant to reduce the risk of young people becoming alcoholics down the line, health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear how many investigators the operation involved, or how much they get paid, but it doesn't seem like $147,000 would fund a full 21 Jump Street-style deep-cover probe requiring unusually shaving-savvy high school juniors to attend ragers and develop dossiers of bodegas that don't card. But it's fun to imagine. A spokesman for the health agency said that the investigators don't use fake IDs, and that they are accompanied in stores by state Liquor Authority staff. If asked for ID, the agents produce their real ones, the spokesman said. We will update this story if we hear more about the investigative methodology.
Fines for selling to minors start at $2,500 and run as high as $10,000 for repeat offenders.
A recent undercover investigation by members of the NYPD's youth auxiliary prompted a lawsuit that nearly shuttered Chinatown's 169 Bar. The bar's owner claimed that the authority-loving youth involved in that bust used fake IDs to get in.