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Airliner limits minors in bar

BY MICHELLE NGO | JANUARY 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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A sign hangs in the front window of the Airliner Bar and Restaurant, stating the establishment’s exemption from the city’s 21-ordinance.

But recently, some underage patrons have been confused when they were denied entrance on the weekends. This is because owner Jim Rinella and his staff have begun limiting the number of underage people who may enter the establishment, 22 S. Clinton St., past 10 p.m.

The 21-ordinance prohibits underage patrons from entering bars after 10 p.m. The Airliner has an exemption, meaning those who are 19 and older are allowed to stay past that hour. Any business whose food revenue is greater than 50 percent of its total revenue may be eligible for the exemption.

In spite of the exemption, Rinella said managing the number of underage entering the establishment is necessary “in order to keep the restaurant responsible and ethical.”

“We have decided to allow [underage patrons] to come in past 10, but only to the point we think we can manage,” he said. “Depending on the night or the number of bouncers we have working, the limit of [underage people] entering Airliner could be 20 to 60.”

Rinella said he decided to limit the underage number in his bar after seven patrons received PAULAs during the months of October and November 2013. According to city documents, the establishment recorded 0 PAULAs in December 2013.

“Our goal every month is to have zero PAULAs,” Rinella said. “It’s tricky because we try our best to monitor underage students, but all of a sudden when one of us isn’t looking, someone hands them a drink, and a cop shows up during that 30-second window.”

PAULAs were the exact reason the Airliner lost its exemption from the ordinance in May 2012. The exemption was reinstated in February 2013.

While some students may be frustrated by the new policy, once a business receives the exemption, it is allowed to apply any sort of limit it wishes, City Clerk Marian Karr said.

The Airliner isn’t the only establishment imposing its own limitations on the exemption.

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., said her establishment — also operating with an exemption — has also been regulating the number of underage patrons.

Cohen said she applied for the exemption because she didn’t want to exclude customers who were dining later in the evening, but at the same time, she didn’t want to accommodate an underage crowd looking to drink.

“We find that it is very hard to regulate whether or not [underage patrons] are drinking,” she said. “Legals tend to not want to be around too many minors, so it’s just worked best for us.”

Even though Rinella wants to keep the limit on underage people in the bar, he has no plans to make the Airliner completely 21 and up because he believes there are students who follow the law, and they want a place to hang out where they don’t have to be 21.

While Rinella said he’s grateful for the student population, his decision is based purely on business.

“I personally apologize to those students who feel snubbed or offended by our new policy,” Rinella said. “That’s not our intention; we truly appreciate your business, but we can’t afford to get 10 to 15 PAULAs and then lose our exemption.”


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