The alcohol-infused straw that broke the camel's back was a 19-year-old Babson student with fake Nigerian and Indian driver's licenses and a photocopy of a Photoshopped British passport whom BPD detectives found with a shot of tequila in her hand inside Venu around 1:30 a.m. on March 4.
The Boston Licensing Board this morning held two hearings on the Paga, Inc. club complex at 100 Warrenton Street: One on the March 4 incident, another to determine whether the board should role back its hours - or take other actions - related to a string of violations, most involving underage drinkers, dating to 2014.
Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini agreed to give the owners 10 days to come up with a plan to deal with the ongoing problems.
Last June, the board ordered Icon shut for five days for an incident in which a Tufts freshman fell to his death from a nearby parking garage after a night of drinking at the club, then upped that to a year after hearing about other underage drinking incidents.
In January, the board ordered Icon shut indefinitely following a hearing on two incidents involving four underage drinkers at the club. Venu got hit with a seven-day suspension over a September back-to-school "champagne war" in which patrons were given bottles of cheap champagne to spray each other with. Pulgini cited other incidents in 2015 and 2014.
The clubs have remained open while owners appeal the suspension orders to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.
BPD Sgt. Det. Robert Mulvey acknowledged that underage drinkers with fake IDs are a problem across the city and prove especially vexing in a city with such a large population of foreign students and visitors, whose IDs can be unfamiliar to even the most experienced of door staff. But he said 100 Warrenton St. seems to be an ongoing destination for large numbers of pre-legal drink seekers and that they keep getting in.
"Other clubs don't have this level of violations," he said.
Club managers and owners, though, said they have wracked their brains trying to tamp down problems and still remain in business. Co-owner Felix Paige said Paga clubs have been valued members of the community for more than 40 years, hosting everybody from Roger Clemens in his Red Sox days to Jay Leno. He said it's unfair to blame the clubs for the ease with which kids can get fake IDs. "The only thing that has changed on the street is that now kids can get in with [such good fake IDs], Jesus Christ, who can tell the difference?"
Paga manager William Robinson said his staff bars up to 100 people a night with fake IDs and said many of them go to neighboring bars - where they sometimes taunt Paga door staff by texting them that they got in somewhere else. In January, Robinson told the board he had ordered his staff to bar anybody who tried to use a Venezuelan ID.
Paga owners and managers said their security officers help clear the Theater District on weekend nights - and will break up fights among exiting patrons from other nearby clubs. They added Paga pays $6,500 a month towards the cost of having eight Boston cops patrol the Theater District at closing on weekends - and that other facilities are refusing to help bear the cost of that.
Mulvey, who suggested blocking the clubs from offering table service, though, was not sympathetic. He said that on nights when the department can't find volunteer officers to work the overtime details, A-1 sometimes has to assign regular patrol cops to the area, which he said takes away protection from the rapidly growing residential streets downtown.
And he returned to his argument that the Paga clubs just seem to attract more trouble. "What we like is self-policing nightclubs that don't require babysitting by Boston Police," he said. "They exist."
Pulgini agreed to a request by Paga to give them ten days to try to come up with a plan for combatting the problem, rather than having the board vote on any action at a meeting on Thursday. "We don't want to have to [take more measures]," she said. "We just want the area to be a safe area."