Stub & Herbs bar fails alcohol checks

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 13, 2009 - 11:20 PM

U watering hole must close for three days by end of '09 for serving underage decoys.

Stub & Herbs bar and restaurant, serving thirsty University of Minnesota students for 70 years, will be required to close its doors for three days before year's end for serving alcohol to underage decoys.

Between April and September, the Stadium Village bar failed three alcohol-compliance checks supervised by Minneapolis police. If it fails a fourth check in the next year and a half, the city could revoke its liquor license.

Stub & Herbs, located a few blocks from the new U football stadium, failed its third check Sept. 19 when the Gophers played California. It was one of five businesses that had a temporary permit to sell alcohol in outdoor areas. A 20-year-old woman and an 18-year-old man were sent to Stub & Herb's parking lot, where a security guard looked at their identification and allowed them into an area that served alcohol.

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council approved fines and recommendations for Stub & Herbs. In an e-mail statement, the bar said it regretted the incidents and would comply with the penalty. It didn't discuss whether any employees were disciplined.

Besides paying $6,500 in fines, Stub & Herbs will post alcohol policy signs, use electronic driver's license scanners, provide alcohol-serving compliance training and participate in city alcohol-compliance policy meetings. The bar passed a compliance check Tuesday.

When the bar failed checks in April and May, a bartender asked for identification from a pair of decoys, each time serving one of them. Police immediately notified management about the violations, which resulted in fines, meetings with city officials and the possibility of criminal charges, said Sgt. Rolf Markstrom of the Police Department's licensing division. The bar was re-checked within 60 days. It passed one check in July.

Every year, police try to check each of the 650 Minneapolis businesses that hold a liquor license. Nearly 20 percent of 491 checks this year have been failures, Markstrom said.

Stub & Herbs, Bombay Bistro restaurant downtown and Zipp's Liquor on E. Franklin Avenue each failed three tests. Markstrom said the design of new driver's licenses makes it easier to identify someone younger than 21, the state's legal drinking age.

Markstrom has a group of about 25 underage people he uses for checks. They present servers with their own license and can't lie about their age if asked. They are allowed to say they aren't part of a police sting if the question comes up, he said.

Catching up on checks

Markstrom, who has been with the division for 11 months, said he wanted to make sure establishments that might have been missed in recent annual checks were tested this year. Stub & Herb's last check was in March 2006.

Under its penalty, the bar has to choose a Monday, a Thursday and a Friday to be closed by the end of the year. The three days don't have to be during the same week.

At the bar Friday, happy hour was bustling. Tony Thomas, 39, was joined by a friend who had been a patron since the 1970s. Thomas wondered whether bartenders who served underage customers made mistakes because the bar was busy. The violations won't stop him from coming to the bar, he said, but he might have some concerns if minors were served six months from now.

Jonah Popp, 25, a doctoral student, said the violations were unfortunate. His identification was checked, which he said doesn't usually happen at bars.

"I will be here Saturday to celebrate my birthday," he said.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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