A state-of-the-art license scanner designed to ferret out increasingly sophisticated fake IDs won't work when a waitress lets her underage friends drink up, a manager at Mija in Faneuil Hall Marketplace acknowledged today.
Mija, along with the Applebee's in the South Bay Mall and Lucca on Hanover Street in the North End, faced a hearing before the Boston Licensing Board on incidents in July in which Boston Police licensing detectives found people under 21 drinking alcoholic beverages - three young women at Mija, three young men at the Applebee's and a mixed group of five at Lucca.
Managers at all three restaurants apologized. The board decides Thursday whether any punishment is warranted.
Mija had purchased a license scanner, which can often pick out fake licenses and IDs - at the advice of licensing detectives. But on July 4, Det. Eddie Hernandez testified, on a surprise inspection, he found three young looking women with mixed drinks at a table on the outside patio. When he asked them if they were over 21, they all said no and handed over fake Massachusetts licenses with their photos but dates of birth that showed they were over 21.
Mija manager Charlie Larner said the restaurant was using its scanning software that night, but that the server later acknowledged she was friends with the women, knew they were under 21 and let them order drinks anyway.
"The server said she used it," but later acknowledged she had not, he said, adding that once the truth came out, the restaurant fired her. He apologized profusely, said the restaurant takes full responsibility and that the incident should never have happened. He added that ID checking has been working: "As slow as Faneuil Hall has been, we have confiscated numerous [fake] IDs."
He added the server now recognizes the error of her ways and had told him he would write her own letter of apology to the board.
At Applebee's and Lucca, the issue, managers said, was that fake IDs have gotten so good they are difficult to catch.
On July 13, detectives entered the Applebee's and found three young men with mixed drinks and beers. As with the women at Mija, they immediately admitted they were not 21 and handed over their fake Massachusetts licenses.
"We certainly apologize that this did happen," an Applebee's manager said.
On July 21, Sgt. Det. Robert Gallagher said, a similar snap inspection found five people at Lucca, all 20 and all with fake licenses, from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida. "They looked really good to me," the waiter who served them told the board. Lucca also apologized and said it has bought a scanner.