[The War on Fun by Wilfrid: May 11, 2007]
The Oberver's Chris Shott continues good coverage of the over-policing (my term) of New York City's nightlife scene with a May 7 piece on police sting operations. The purpose of these daring undercover manoeuvres, as any fool can see, is not to combat underage drinking, but to improve that with sufficient ingenuity and patience, plain-clothes police cadets can trick even the more diligent bartender into breaking the law.
Result? Fines all round, and probably the can for the poor mark. Essentially, "sting" is a polite argot for a con trick. Among the common confidence trick traits shared by the police ruse:
Over-exertion of sales demands; vaguely answering questions and intentionally obscuring the details; behavior in a non-professional manner; false references; distraction (thanks Wikipedia).
Pity the Hop Devil Grill, a boutique beer joint on St Marks, recently closed for a spell as a result of repeated entrapments. Shott doesn't detail the techniques used by these junior secret squirrels, but I hear about them from my bartender pals. One favorite: an undercover operative with valid ID makes the liquor purchase. As soon as the bartender is distracted, an underage companion reaches for the drink. Gotcha. Understand - this operation is not identifying bartenders who are deliberately breaking the law, or even those who don't care; it's using smart techniques to entrap good employees who are trying not to break the law.
And the only objective, other than the revenue from fines, would seem to be to ensure that real underage drinkers do their boozing in private. Great result all round.