Employees, patrons cited for alcohol violations after police raid Toucans

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"We hoped the arrests heightened the awareness of the issues with underage drinking," Captain James Comerford of the Oswego City Police Department said.

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The bust was made as part of the enforcement aspect of the grant received by the County of Oswego Council on Alcoholism and Addictions Inc. (COCOAA), and the Oswego City Police Department to confront the issue of underage drinking in Oswego.

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"The Oswego City Police Department and other entities that participated on April 18 hope to continue our efforts," Comerford said.

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Marcus Arruza, a DJ at Toucan’s was present when the bust occurred. He said that one or two police officers arrived at first, and were then followed by another 10 to 15 officers. Health inspectors, undercover agents, and the chief of police were also present, he said. A police vehicle was parked to block off Water Street, as well as behind the bar’s rear entrance. Authorities locked down the bar and did not allow patrons to leave without first presenting identification.

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"One of the problems that our bouncers face is that kids come in as minors and then wash their marks off in the bathroom," Arruza said.

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Toucan’s has six bartenders, all of which are students at Oswego State, according to an employee of the bar who wished to remain unidentified. Police operations of this nature are not common at Toucan’s and appeared to have increased over recent months, the employee added.

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The bartenders are encouraged by management to deny patrons who provide questionable identification, even if their IDs state they are of legal age. Toucan’s permits entrance to individuals 18 and older, but those who are under 21 are identified with an "X" drawn on a hand with a black permanent marker. Patrons who are of legal age receive a wristband, allowing them to be served alcoholic beverages. These procedures are administered by the bar’s bouncers to alleviate the bartender’s from individually identifying each customer.

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However, the unidentified employee said that customers are caught "all the time" exchanging wristbands and washing off the marker from their hand. The penalties for minors who violate alcohol purchasing laws are less severe than for the consequences for the employees involved in these actions.