More than 150 arrested in 'Kiddie Night' sting Teen drinking targeted in undercover program outside Annapolis bar

January 26, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Since Buddy's Late Night in Annapolis began College Night on Thursdays last fall, admitting 18-year-olds to the club, the county police Southern District station has been flooded with complaints of underage drinking outside the building.

Calls to the club became so routine, officers said, that they parked their patrol cars and stayed.

Last month, the department came up with its own plan: "Kiddie Night," a sting operation that has led to more than 150 arrests for everything from open alcohol container violations to drug possession near the Hudson Street nightclub. On Thursday, police arrested 51 people.

"Five minutes after we left the station Thursday, we had an arrest," said Sgt. Pat Riordan, who heads up the operations. "We weren't even finished setting up yet, that's how much of a problem this is."

Club managers acknowledge they target teens and young adults with splashy radio ads, but say they offer a safe place for them to lounge while other clubs turn youngsters away. Some patrons drive an hour or more from such places as Northern Virginia.

The club patrons say that the problems aren't so bad and that the police are infringing on their suburban"right" to meet in the parking lot, and hang out -- especially when the nearby club has invited them.

Where else, asks Jason Morse, 21, of Seabrook, are they supposed to go?

"It just seems kind of petty," said Morse, who was issued a $500 citation Thursday for standing outside with an open can of beer. "Nobody was hurting anybody. Nobody was fighting. I mean I know they have to do their jobs, but don't they have anything else to do?"

Precisely, Riordan said. "Believe me, we really do like doing other things besides working Hudson Street."

But, he said, "There's no way you can let the 18- to 21-year-old age group into a place with people older than 21 and not expect them to try to drink. And it's attracting people from all over. Now not only do we have to deal with our county's problems, but we have to deal with all the kids from other counties coming here."

Police usually make several drug arrests in addition to underage drinking citations, and they seized three cars Thursday.

Caught in the middle is Buddy's management, which insists it is cooperating with the effort to rid the parking lot of problems. The club is surrounded mostly by warehouses and employs 16 security guards to patrol inside and outside.

Police from Southern District would like to see College Night ended. They took along members of the county's liquor board to scan the place during the last two operations. No charges have )) been filed against the club.

Buddy's operations manager Stuart Anderson said ending College Night is unlikely.

Thursday nights are the club's most popular, he said, bringing in almost 600 people at $10 a head. Some wait in line for 1 1/2 hours to get inside.

Responding to teens' complaints that their options are to hang out near Buddy's or behind the nearest convenience store, Anderson said the club is at least giving them a safe place to party.

"We're giving the kids an honest, decent place to go," Anderson said. "We are all anti-drug. We are all anti-alcohol for those under 21. This is a controlled environment where they are monitored, even in the parking lot.

"We want the police there," he said.

Anderson said he has not seen any drinking on club property. The drinking, he said, is happening before they get to the club, when the teens stop at liquor stores to pick up a six-pack -- something he says the club can't be responsible for.

He adds that the teens are bringing much-needed revenue to West Street when they stop at Denny's after the club closes or fill up gas tanks for the long ride home.

Police aren't buying that argument, but Riordan said he can understand young adults' frustrations about not having anywhere to go. Still, he said, it is no excuse for breaking the law.

"I agree with them," he said, "They do need a place to go. But it doesn't have to be mixing with an older, alcohol-drinking crowd."

Marco Bertolo, 20, of Clinton and Nichols Simonds, 18, both of whom said they were cited for underage drinking, don't understand all the fuss.

"One of my friends got searched three times," Bertolo said over the phone from his home. "And it's really not that bad there."

"Yeah," Simonds said, grabbing the phone. "It used to be that we had to deal with a bunch of troublemakers. Now we have to deal with a bunch of cops. And I was just there to meet some girls."

Pub Date: 1/25/98

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