Police: Underage drinking parties were 'recipe for disaster'

Inside the Pancake House - Early Bird Bar & Grill at 1:45 in the morning, Indiana Excise and Indianapolis police found 80 teenagers, some of them drunk.
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Police say a party where teenagers were found drinking after hours could have turned into a disaster.

When the doors opened at Early Bird Pancakes at 82nd and Michigan Saturday night, police say they opened on a situation that could have placed teens in danger.

"It very well could have been a disaster in the making," says Indiana Excise Police Superintendent Matt Strittmatter.

Police arrested 80 people on charges related to underage drinking. It was almost 2 a.m. Sunday and at least a dozen of those arrested were teens. Some of the teens were among the 63 teenagers picked up at a west side club last month.

They were sober, but partying with men in their twenties and early thirties, according to Detective Sgt. William Carter.

"These individuals were intoxicated. They were intermingling with 13- and 14-year-old girls, exchanging phone numbers, asking, 'make sure you call me,' a recipe for disaster," he said.

The IMPD investigator was on both raids. Both times, party flyers tipped him off to an alarming and growing problem. Some restaurants with liquor licenses, police say, are doing after hours makeovers, clearing away tables and chairs, turning themselves into night clubs with open bar areas - and open invitations to teenagers.

"They are advertising on Facebook, 18 to enter, 21 to drink. They have everything from adult entertainment, strippers," Carter said. He also said they are inviting minors to attend.

Although police say they had warned the Early Bird's owner about the possible liquor law and zoning violations, Adrian Tamayo is pleading ignorance, saying, "I didn't know nothing about this stuff."

"A 13-year-old's party? I didn't know nothing about that," Tamayo insisted. "I didn't do anything. These people, it's killing me right now. It's killing me."

Tamayo says he's stunned by the arrests on the first anniversary of his store's opening. But police say the restaurant had closed its kitchen, and bartenders weren't carding anyone.

"Anyone could have walked up and gotten a beer, a mixed drink or anything," Carter said.

Tamayo says he let another man hold the party in his place Saturday night and that he wasn't even there.

"It's crazy. I see him, I want to slap him in the face, I want to punch him in the face," Tamayo said. "This guy should be in jail and then 13-year-old kids? Come on. And then alcohol? I'm so mad. You don't understand how mad I am. It's parents' fault, too. The parents' fault."

Police say with spring break underway, parents need to be more watchful.

"We're encouraging them to institute some sort of household curfew so you know where your children are," said Strittmatter. "There's a responsibility to know where they're going and what they're doing."

It's happened before on the same street. At 96th and Michigan, a bar lost its business license after teens partied into the night with alcohol. Two other spots in Marion County have had the same problem since January.

As for the owner of Early Bird Pancakes, he says the next time he rents it out to someone else, he'll make sure "they have security guys and they bring their parents."

Tamayo says the man who rented his place Saturday night was running it under his own liquor license. Tamayo says he kept his at home so any trouble wouldn't blow back on him.

He says the man who rented the place for the party now won't return his calls.

City and state excise police want the bar's liquor license revoked. It is a process that could take months.

The minors ticketed for underage drinking, depending on their age, will be summoned to appear either in juvenile or criminal courts.

To report underage drinking parties:

Notify Indiana Excise Police on Twitter (@ExcisePolice) or call Indiana Excise Police district office during business hours (317-541-4100).