The Boston Licensing Board yesterday ordered Icon, 100 Warrenton St., shut indefinitely over a pair of incidents in which detectives found underage drinkers on the premises.
Separately, the board ordered a seven-day license suspension for the neighboring Venu, owned by the same company, for a back-to-school champagne-spraying event at which detectives found some people swilling the cheap bubbly straight from the bottle instead of just spraying friends with it. State regulations bar patrons from drinking directly from a champagne or wine bottle unless it's accompanied by a meal.
The indefinite suspensions, for incidents involving Venezuelan nationals using bogus national ID cards and passports, come as the board and other Theater District clubs ready for a Jan. 27 hearing at which officials and club owners will try to come up with new solutions to curb the area's perennial problems with closing-time violence and melees.
And they come as club owners say they're beginning to lose the battle against both young people from countries where IDs with bogus birth dates are easy to come by and against Internet-based companies that offer increasingly sophisticated fake IDs that can beat even the state-of-the-art and expensive license scanners many venues frequented by students now use.
At a hearing on Tuesday, BPD Det. Daniel MacDonald testified that on a routine inspection on Sept. 23, he and his partner, Sgt. Det. Robert Mulvey, found a 19-year-old from Venezuela with a vodka and Red Bull and a 20-year-old with a fake New York license swigging champagne from a bottle. The Venezuelan had used a Venezuelan ID and passport that showed him to be 21.
A month later, the detectives returned and found two young-looking men at a VIP table with mixed drinks - one a vodka and soda, the other a vodka and cranberry. The guy with the vodka and soda turned out to be an 18-year-old Venezuelan with government-issued IDs that gave his age as 21; the other guy was 19 with similar IDs from Colombia, he said.
The detectives established their true ages after they admitted going to Suffolk - by calling the college's police and asking them to look up their ages.
To no avail, club manager William Robinson pleaded for leniency. He handed board Chairwoman Christine Puligine a stack of 85 fake IDs he said his staff had confiscated on Oct. 23, and said that on Sept. 23, the club confiscated 53 fake IDs.
The IDs are just getting too good, he said, adding that, unlike police, he and his door staff can't just ask young-looking would-be patrons where they go to school and then call up the schools to verify their ages, because that information is protected by federal privacy laws.
Robinson added that after the second incident, he ordered his staff to turn away anybody with a Venezuelan ID - which he said has basically meant the area's large Venezuelan population, even people legitimately of age, is now boycotting Icon because they don't want to go where their friends are barred. He added he's been called a racist over the policy and that he has watched Venezuelans turned away from Icon go around the corner to another club, which has no similar compunctions.
Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini said one possible answer might be to ask local colleges to let students request college IDs with their ages on them. Mulvey added that students of age can get a Massachusetts liquor ID from the RMV - it's one of the IDs that clubs and bars can accept as proof of age without worrying about consequences if it turns out the holder is not actually of age.