Excise police, fire marshal sweep clubs for underage drinking

Excise police conduct a sweep at one of several Indianapolis night clubs.
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Police say they are sending a message with a coordinated sweep of several night clubs and restaurants.

They went looking for underage drinkers this weekend, but found a whole host of other violations. Eyewitness News cameras were there when the fire marshal closed one club and the health department wrote several tickets.

The sweep comes one week after police found dozens of teenagers drinking a north Indianapolis bar.

The owners of the Salon Convention Center had no idea they were about to be ordered to close the doors and make hundreds of people inside go home.

"It is not their fault. It is the fault of the people operating the place not keeping it up," said Sam Brunner, Pike Township Fire Department.

In a matter of minutes, the Department of Code Enforcement, Indiana Excise Police, the fire marshal and health department found a number of violations. It was the first step of a sweep of several dance halls, bars and restaurants orchestrated by Indianapolis Code Enforcement.

"We are in the process of doing all of that, plus they do not have the proper health permits to serve liquor or food," said Brunner.

A food trailer served as the kitchen for the evening, which is against the law. The most glaring violation was underage drinkers.

One girl told excise officers she had just moved to Indiana from Mexico and had no identification of any type. Another young man was arrested for an outstanding traffic warrant.

But it was the violations inside the building that stopped the music and shut the party down.

On the west side, the band played on at one bar as police moved with the dancers to check ID. But it was in the kitchen that they found trouble - no food. With one violation came a host of others from excise police and the health department.

Down on 10th Street, the band never missed a beat as the fire marshal made sure the power driving the party was hooked up properly. In the basement, there were issues with wires and hoses and too many holes in the floor joist. But the party was allowed to continue.

Police found a young man drinking by the bar at Club Tropicana, not in a separate area for those under 21 years of age.

"I think we are trying to send a message in Marion County that if you are going to have a liquor license, you have to follow the rules," said IMPD Sgt. William Carter.

The sweep came just one week after excise police arrest dozens for underage drinking at a bar on the north side. Most of those arrested were Hispanic, same as those ticketed this time.

"I'm not sure, as far as age in another culture, I just know in Indiana you have to be 21 to drink and that is the laws that we enforce. I'm hoping that if anything comes of this sweep, they are going to understand we are going to enforce those laws. You have to be 21," said Carter.

More raids are being planned. The fire marshal's office said they are going back to each location for a more in-depth investigation.