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I-Team Exclusive: Behind The Scenes As State Inspectors Police Boston Nightclubs

BOSTON (CBS) - Outside Venu, the line to get in is so long that dozens of people spill out onto the streets. This is one of Boston's hottest nightclubs. It's also where 23-Year-old Jassy Correia was last seen before she was allegedly abducted and murdered back in February.

On a recent Friday night, the I-Team went along with the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to get an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at how they are enforcing laws designed to protect patrons of the state's clubs and bars.

"We look at any violation of the law, but primary issues involving immediate public safety," Frederick Mahoney, Chief of the agency's Enforcement Division explained. "When you have license to sell alcoholic beverages, you have a responsibility to your customers."

That means checking identification at the door to be sure that only adults who are over 21 are getting inside. Investigators say it is a constant battle with fake ID's that look all too real.

The manager at Club Bijou says he has confiscated hundreds of counterfeit driver's licenses and uses them to train his staff. He told the I-Team he doesn't just look at the identification to determine the fake; he also focuses on how people react to questions and the confidence of their answers.

"Our message to the bar owners is that if they come in with an ID that says they're 21 and they look like they're 17, they probably are [17]," Mahoney said.

It's not just underage drinking that concerns investigators. Serving people who may have already had too much to drink is another problem that they say could have serious consequences.

"We've seen people wandering around outside without friends," Mahoney said. "We're not looking for liquor violations at that point, but we are going to make sure those young people get connected back with their friends or there is some safe form of transportation home."

While investigators say most bars and nightclubs stay within the law and provide a safe environment, some do not. Over the last several years, investigators making unannounced inspections found nearly 1,300 violations, many of which resulted in license suspensions and fines.

"By going out doing a high visibility presence throughout the Theater District – that  presence alone will result in the bar staff being much more aware of over-service and the employees will spot people in the bar that are intoxicated and make sure they don't get served," Mahoney told us.

He oversees a small unit of investigators that is about to get larger. Five more investigators are in the police academy and should be on the street later this year.

The ABCC is under the auspice of State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who has long advocated for additional resources for the commission. She says in the last ten years, the agency has gone from handling 19,000 liquor licenses to more than 32,000. According to Goldberg, the commission has been understaffed and needs additional funding to maintain best practices.

Recently the legislature approved an increase for the agency's budget, allowing for the hiring of additional investigators.


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