Section: News

Undercover officer cites underage drinking at the VI

Undercover officer cites underage drinking at the VI

On Oct. 8, three Kenyon students were cited for underage consumption of alcohol in an apparent sting operation at the Village Inn (VI) conducted by the Ohio Department of Liquor Control. Joel Gunderson, co-owner of the VI, said the technique of using an undercover officer to ensure alcohol compliance was new.

After directing members of a wedding reception to the VI, the three students were invited to join the party. About fifteen minutes after the students entered the establishment, four deputies from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) arrived. Flashlights aloft, they began asking everyone for identification. Three students, as well as one individual with the wedding reception, received citations for underage consumption.

The Collegian interviewed two of the three individuals who received citations, a sophomore male student and a first-year male student, both of whom were under 21. Both requested anonymity due to a wish to keep their legal record private.

“I was hardly even buzzed,” the sophomore said, noting he had consumed three beers earlier in the night at an Acland apartment. He admitted that to the sheriff because he assumed that he would have to undergo a sobriety test, but he said he was not Breathalyzed.

The first-year student said he had also been drinking prior to arriving at the VI. Both said they had not consumed alcohol at the restaurant, nor were any drinks purchased for them. “I was just there to hang [out], personally,” the first-year student said.

After they arrived, the sophomore student had noticed something odd at the VI. “There was a … guy who was in there in jeans and a t-shirt,” he said. “I thought it was sketchy because he was the only one not with the wedding party.” The students said the KCSO officers on the scene confirmed that this individual was an undercover officer. Gunderson confirmed that some individuals had been cited by KCSO, although he said he could not remember the exact date of the operation. Gunderson heard from the Ohio Department of Liquor Control officer on the scene that, because he was told that the individuals cited had been consuming beverages purchased for them, the restaurant was not liable. No legal action was taken against the establishment. The Ohio Department of Liquor Control did not immediately respond to repeated requests for comment.

Captain Jay Sheffer said he was not aware of any citations for underage consumption issued by KCSO at the Village Inn on that date; he said “he did not see any reports that indicate” an event like this. Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer was not available for comment.

The sophomore student showed this reporter a photo of the pink ticket for underage consumption he recieved that night, which noted the date and time of his court summons the following week.

Three male students, along with one individual with the wedding party, produced identification and were taken outside, where sheriff’s deputies wrote them tickets an hour after they entered the restaurant. A female sophomore, who was with them at the time, said she was not charged after she could not produce any identification. She described the officials’ treatment of the charged students as “really intense.”

The first-year student agreed with the female student’s description of the events. “We were lectured by the police officers about the dangers of underage drinking,” he said. “It didn’t feel right because … I wasn’t drunk at the time. I felt like I was being responsible and I wasn’t bothering anyone.”

The students went to Mount Vernon Municipal Court on Oct. 11, where they pled no contest (meaning that they admitted the facts of the alleged incident but not their guilt) to the charge of underage consumption and possession of alcohol by a minor.  They each received a $200 fine and paid $76 in court fees. They also have to complete 20 hours of community service.

The male sophomore student said they completed alcohol counseling with Mike Durham, the interim co-director of counseling services. The sophomore student also said he had a meeting with Melissa Swartz, the assistant director of student rights and responsibilities.

Gunderson said he thought there seemed to be an increase in law enforcement’s focus on underage consumption in the Gambier area. Sheffer disagreed.  “It’s kind of status quo,” he said, although he said he had not seen any data to that effect.

Both students who received citations agreed that receiving a citation for underage consumption felt odd. “It was absurdly inconsistent with the social norms,” the male sophomore student said, referencing the significant amount of individuals that consume alcohol under the age of 21.  “It’s something everyone recognizes the absurdity of.”



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