Bar owners scramble to keep up with fake ID technology

The arms race between bar owners and college students with increasingly sophisticated fake IDs is heating up.

Students today can spend $100 to $150 on fake identification through a number of websites that claim superior quality down to the holograms and bar codes. There’s an underground review that rates the quality of fake IDs from different sites. Students can even watch YouTube videos on how to make IDs showing they’re 21, the legal drinking age.

Earlier this month, a Milwaukee police officer on patrol peered through a front window of Victor’s a nightclub at 1230 N. Van Buren St. and noticed lots of young looking patrons. A patron spotted the officer, yelled that the cops were there, and more than 100 Marquette University students were cited for being in a bar while underage. They had fake IDs.

It was a Thursday night “College Night” at Victor’s complete with free pizza, $2.50 drink specials and $1 shots.

A Marquette spokesman confirmed that 105 underage students were identified as being in the bar that night.

“We take this issue seriously and are currently reviewing the incident,” said the spokesman, Brian Dorrington.

Misrepresentation of age or possession of false documentation of age is a violation of Marquette’s alcohol policy. Consequences are based on past offenses.

Victor’s, which did not have the latest sophisticated scanner at the door to detect fake IDs, best fake id has since discontinued College Night and its shuttle service that picked students up at Marquette and gave them a ride back to campus at bar close.

“It’s not worth it,” said club owner Victor Jones, whose family opened the nightclub 51 years ago.

In addition to the negative publicity that accompanies an underage drinking bust, it’s written up in the bar’s file for city review when its license comes up for annual renewal.

The typical Victor’s crowd is men and women in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Jones said Saturday that he started College Night at the end of 2011 when a few younger employees suggested it.

Victor’s doormen used an inexpensive, hand held scanner to check IDs for a while, but it recently broke and was being repaired when the underage Marquette students drew the attention of police, Jones said.

He had been hedging his bets against fake IDs since the beginning of the academic year by requiring students to show both a state issued ID and a college ID to make sure they matched. “I had no idea fake IDs had become so sophisticated,” Jones said.

Now he plans to invest in a more high tech hand held ID scanner costing $2,000 to $3,000.

In the meantime, Jones said he’ll only allow young patrons with a Wisconsin ID into the club until the spring semester ends in May. He said his doormen at the front and back doors are more comfortable recognizing fake IDs from Wisconsin than those from other states and countries.

Screening’s a challenge

“Screening at the front door for underage drinkers is probably one of the most difficult things to do in this business,” said Mike Vitucci, scannable fake ids owner of Murphy’s Irish Pub and Caffrey’s Pub in the Marquette University neighborhood, and the Whiskey Bar and The Belmont Tavern in downtown Milwaukee.

Vitucci has invested in sophisticated hand held scanners that read an ID bar code and take a picture of the person presenting the ID.

He also has a camera outside the door that photographs students as they present their IDs to the doormen to make sure they were checked, and the IDs are placed in a box that photographs them.

Vitucci provides the doormen with a cash incentive for confiscating the most fake IDs.

“Your ID checking system is only as good as your doormen because who gets into the bar is up to the doormen,” Vitucci said. “I keep track of who collects the most fake IDs, and it’s a competition.”

Doormen also are given a book that shows what to look for in fake IDs from every state, and they’re expected to study it, he said.

Vitucci said 98% of his business at Murphy’s and Caffrey’s is Marquette students, so he has to be extra vigilant.

“Our motto is, ‘We want you for a year and half. Anyone else, we’ll wait for you’ ” to turn 21, he said.

When a student turns 21, they receive a free “Finally 21” T shirt from Murphy’s and can buy a $20 Murphy’s mug that’s kept at the pub for them to use whenever they come in. “When they graduate, they keep the mug, scannable fake ids ” Vitucci said.