With Police Order, Teens Head to Bars

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in yesterday's City & Region section misidentified a group sponsoring ''Night of Compliance," an effort to crack down on underage drinking. The group is Mothers Against Drunk Driving.) CHARLESTOWN -- Stephanie Rodriguez, 16, says she's not a drinker, but on Friday night she ended her week bar hopping with college students and frequenting several liquor stores in search of an ice cold beer.

Rodriguez looks like a typical high school student. A chin piercing marks her youthful face. She stands at just over 5 feet tall with shoulder-length brown hair, and she is dressed casually, in blue jeans and a tank top.

Despite Rodriquez's youthful appearance, she didn't have trouble finding alcohol. Two out of the five locations Rodriquez visited sold the minor her beverage of choice.

Rodriguez was participating in a sting with the Boston Police Department as part of a nationwide effort to crack down on underage drinking. Marking the 21st anniversary of the Minimum Drinking Age Law, Mothers Against Destructive Decisions launched the ''Night of Compliance" weekend campaign with law enforcement agencies in 21 cities.

Nine teams hit more than 100 businesses in the Boston area.

MADD declined to give the total number of businesses that were cited and whether any arrests made until a news conference in front of City Hall tomorrow.

''Because alcohol is a legal drug, a lot of adults are not aware that it's the most dangerous," said Barbara Harrington, state executive director for MADD.

''There are a lot of people who worry about heroin or OxyContin," she said. ''People don't take alcohol seriously enough." Rodriguez's four-member team hit Charleston. Their first stop: Tavern on the Water, a popular spot on a pier across from the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Rodriguez's group thought this place would pass the test; there were three levels of security and a mature clientele.

Rodriguez entered, ordered a Budweiser, and left the premises in three minutes flat. She was never asked for identification.

''A young girl going into a place like that can get into a lot of trouble under the influence of alcohol," Harrington said.

''That's pretty surprising," added Caroline Wilichoski, a state investigator with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. ''She should have been carded, but she was never asked for an ID." Afterward, the compliance team, which included a police detective, confronted the manager, who was clearly distraught.

''It bothers me that it happened," said Brian Hurley, 34, the manager on duty, as the tavern was issued a citation. ''I don't know how it happened with three levels of security." Three liquor stores asked Rodriquez for identification. But Rodriguez was served liquor at Chow Thai Cafe, which was also issued a citation, Wilichoski said.

Rodriguez was nervous at the beginning of the checks, but after some practice, she handled it very confidently.

''I thought it was cool working with the police," she said.

''I'm not the type of person who likes to drink. The attitude that [authorities] have about drinking, I have, too. Kids aren't really fully developed until they are 21."

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