Cafe Durant may face investigation into alcohol violations

Joshua Jordan/Staff

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Cafe Durant, located at 2517 Durant Ave., faces possible investigation by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, but still holds its license to serve beer and wine, according to Hector Orozco, manager of Cafe Durant.

ABC agents have been frequenting the cafe for the past month — sometimes twice a week — to look into potential violations, including the sale of alcohol to minor customers, according to Orozco. He said that on Friday, ABC agents allegedly caught a group of 10 minors consuming alcoholic beverages at Cafe Durant with fake IDs.

Debbie Root, an ABC licensing representative, said that while Cafe Durant’s license to sell beer and wine has remained active since 2009, there are pending accusations placed upon the establishment, but she declined to offer further comment.

But according to ABC spokesperson John Carr, Cafe Durant has no record of disciplinary history, and there is no active disciplinary action or formal accusation against the business.

“I have been manager for 10 years — we’ve never had a problem,” Orozco said. “We try to follow the law and follow all the rules. There could be one or two customers that are breaking the rules.”

Orozco said he is waiting to hear back from ABC about these allegations, but he feels that if the incident were a major issue, ABC would have already revoked his business’s alcohol license.

Orozco detailed the lengthy process that Cafe Durant uses to verify state identification: For instance, the business requires those with out-of-state IDs to provide double identification to authenticate their claimed ages. The manager added that his business also recently purchased machines that can more accurately spot counterfeit IDs.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised, with what’s recently happened at Fat Slice and Remy’s,” UC Berkeley sophomore Sean Mckenzie said about the allegations against Cafe Durant. “The most responsibility is on businesses … to find a balance to service customers and do what’s right.”

Orozco said his evening sales have declined by 50 percent as a result of ABC investigations, suggesting that students are scared of going to the cafe.

He called on the department to provide more tools and resources to assist local businesses in training staff to identify fake IDs. Orozco expressed displeasure with ABC agents’ tactics, alleging that ABC hires underage students to try to “trick” staff into selling alcohol illegally to minors.

Carr declined to comment on ABC investigation tactics.

Douglas Miller, owner of Tap Haus, a German-style beer hall and restaurant across the street from Cafe Durant, said his business has encountered many customers who present counterfeit IDs.

“From what I’ve heard from college kids, everyone has false IDs,” Miller said. “Here, we’ve seen a lot of them, and there is a lot of anger and indignation when service is declined.”

Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.