A University of Wisconsin freshman waits anxiously in line outside of the Madison Avenue nightclub on University Avenue Friday night. The 18-year-old student said she hopes the bouncer will accept her fake ID — which she recently spent $150 on — and give her a wristband that enables her to buy alcoholic drinks at the bar. "It's part of the social life here in Madison," said the freshman, who wished to remain anonymous. "I added my fake to the costs of my social expenses for this semester, which I hope will benefit me for semesters to come." She said Madison Avenue is one of the "easy" bars to get into because it already lets underage students in just to dance and not buy alcohol. "At least I know the likelihood is they won't take my ID," she said. "The worst case is some guy who is over 21 could always buy me a drink." While students purchasing a fake ID might view this process solely as a rite of passage to hold them over until they are officially 21, the reality is the fake ID industry has become an intricate business between the parties involved. Underage individuals, through what one anonymous UW student calls a "pay it forward system," hear about people involved with the fake ID business and pay them for their services. But bouncers want to take away fake IDs because they receive financial incentives from their bosses. UW senior Noelle Connor, a cocktail waitress at the downtown bar Vintage said bouncers receive $10 for every ID they take. The Madison Police Department also becomes involved with fake IDs when officers issue citations to students for possessing a false form of identification — a $501 fine. Even some bar owners like Richard Lyshek, president of the Dane County Tavern League, said the fake ID business is creating more of a security issue within this country, adding the ramifications outweigh an underage patron’s desire to buy a cocktail. Obtaining a fake ID: First step in the business cycle One underage UW student said he entered the fake ID business about a year ago and customers find him primarily by word of mouth. "When you start with one person, it just starts a chain reaction," the student said. As the middleman, he said he takes down all the information from individuals — their real name, hair color, eye color and height — and takes a picture of them before forwarding this data on to the person who makes the ID. On the fake ID, the student said the only false information is the address. The business, the student said, is predominately made up of freshmen and sophomores and has been quite successful. The student said the IDs — which are scanned and read under a black light — have worked around the country and, to his knowledge, have only been taken away because the individual possessing the ID looks too young to be 21. "Bars are private," the student said. "If they think you are underage and look underage, they will take the ID." With the market range for an ID that scans ranging from $80-150, the student said like with any business, the seller must be organized and able to communicate well. "You will get angry customers if they don't get their IDs in a timely fashion," the student said. "To do well, you have to keep your promises." How bouncers pocket more cash with fake IDs The first thing a bouncer looks at to determine whether an ID is fake is the expiration date, according to Connor. If the bouncer has any doubt, Connor said, they will usually ask for a second form. At Vintage, with bouncers receiving an extra $10 for every ID taken, Connor said bouncers often examine the birthday, eye color, height and weight between the individual and what is written on the ID. Since bouncers often look at the same ID for the same states, Connor said it is obvious when the font or color is off or when the hologram associated with a particular state is either wrong or not placed correctly on the card. Bouncers, Connor added, often see a lot of Michigan and Wisconsin fake IDs, and all these factors contribute to why the fake ID gets taken. "I had friends that had IDs taken here," Connor said. "I would advise people if they are not 21 to not go and try and drink here. Just avoid it." Zac Kasper, a former bouncer at State Street Brats, said bouncers at Brothers get $50 every time they take a fake ID. "They are looking for more money and will deny individuals," Kasper said. At State Street Brats, though, Kasper said they did not get paid for obtaining a fake ID nor were they told to take an ID, rather they were told to just give the ID back. Overall, Kasper said they were pretty good at identifying fake IDs and not many got past them. Kasper said some common states he saw for fake IDs were California, Alaska and New Jersey and added they were easy to identify if the words "authenticate" or "valid" were on the fake. UW senior and former City Bar bouncer Zach, who wishes only to be identified by his first name, said how strict a bar is on fake IDs depends on how worried the owner is about receiving a fine. "Being a State Street bar indicates a significant portion of the population is underage," Zach said. "Owners fear when the city threatens to shut down the bars for a weekend because it is hard to make back that kind of money." Zach said the general policy is if the ID is fake or expired, the bouncer should take it. However, he admits he never took an ID. On any given night, Zach said about 15 percent of the IDs were fake but added if underage individuals got in, the likelihood was the bouncer was looking the other way. City, Zach said, has a mediocre reputation on a difficulty scale for letting underage drinkers in — not as strict as a Wando’s or Brothers but not as lenient as Johnny Os — and said bouncers never received any additional compensation for taking IDs. "The owner never said, ‘Let underage people in,’" Zach said. "[They] only said to be strict on IDs or nothing at all." Police role in confiscating IDs UW Police Department Sgt. Jason Whitney said the UWPD lacks jurisdiction over bars because they are not located on campus, but added it is the up to the particular officer's discretion whether or not he or she confiscates an ID and issues a citation. "There is probably a high percentage of under-the-influence students who carry a fake ID on any given night," Whitney said. "But we are not required to forward it over to the city police." Whitney said liaison officers stationed in the dorms try to educate students on the consequences of having a fake ID, including the $501 for possession. Joel DeSpain, public information officer for the MPD, said the police tell bar owners to confiscate IDs and will raid bars and issue fines if they suspect there are many underage individuals within the establishment. DeSpain added while the police department does not use the fake IDs for any profitable market, it does use them for training purposes to see what is out there. Share 'underwater New Announce Out ' Project Video Bar owners and their take on greater ramifications for fake IDsThe Dane County Tavern League, Lyshek said, has no unified policy on what bars should or should not do with fake IDs. Lyshek said while some bars pay bouncers per fake ID confiscated, there is no legal requirement and each bar does what works best for them. There is no question, Lyshek said, the bars in downtown Madison are inundated with large quantities of fake IDs, which he believes poses a national security problem. "The drinking age of 21 creates a large problem regarding the nation's security," Lyshek said. "There is a strong, thriving market for fake IDs creating greater accessibility for illegal immigrants and potential terrorists to rent a car and place a bomb somewhere … something a little more sinister than going out with friends and having a good time." Lyshek owns both the Ram Head downtown and the Bristly Bore Saloon in Middleton and said lowering the drinking age to 18 would likely eliminate the number of fake IDs being produced. However, Lyshek said realistically, the chance of this happening is unlikely and added a legal drinking age of 19 could be a compromise of principles people could live with. Will the business continue? For now, fake IDs are very much a business and part of the culture of college life on universities across the country. With almost three-quarters of the college age population under the age of 21, the ability to enter a bar requires students to have access to a fake ID. "I'll take my chances and let myself have a good time,” a UW freshman said.
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