Three of Norwalk's nine bars have front-door signs clearly stating you have to be at least 21 to enter. One bar, which is privately run, requires a spouse, significant other or friend to be accompanied by a member in good standing in order to gain entry.
Most of the bar owners interviewed this week by the Reflector said they will request people to leave if a patron over the age of 21 buys alcohol for an underage person. Eight bars in downtown Norwalk are within several blocks of each other.
Mary Davie has owned Bluto's Sports Bar & Grill, 33 E. Seminary St., for the last seven years. People have to be 21 or with a parent to enter her establishment, one of two bars with signs prohibiting underage patrons.
"If they're not with their parent, they can't come in ... unless it's lunch time," Davie said.
She noted that many young people working downtown often eat lunch at Bluto's and drink pop.
"My bartenders are instructed to (check IDs) for anyone under the age of 50," said Davie, who calls her business a "big stickler on IDs."
Joanne Schaffer, who has run Shamrock Tavern on North Hester Street since about 1983, believes all the Norwalk bars do they best they can to check IDs and prevent underage people from obtaining alcohol. Shamrock has been owned by Schaffer's family since 1946.
"They really should be with their parent(s)," said the owner who doesn't work the night shift.
"It's hard to keep up on it. I think everyone makes a good effort," Schaffer said. "Anything can happen, though."
Sandy Fillmore has been managing TJ's Bar, 71 Jefferson St., for 2 1/2 years and is the nightly bartender. Two signs at each door say, "You have to be 21 to enter."
"If I don't recognize their faces, we ID them. Even if our regulars bring in new faces, I ID them. If they don't have an ID, I say good-bye," Fillmore said.
"I don't care if they look 40 years old, if they don't have an ID, I'll make them leave."
Donna Rossman, the owner of Charlie's Bar since 1983, said her bouncers regularly check IDs. She declined to elaborate for this story.
Brian Rupp, who has run Rupp's Place, 75 Whittlesey Ave. for the last eight years, said he may be "the strictest person in town" about underage patrons. Rupp's has been family-owned for 37 years.
"I'm pretty much harsh on (those) 18 and under. I have a door man all the time," Rupp said.
Like Charlie's, people who are 18 are allowed into Rupp's, but they have their hands marked.
Rupp said his bouncers check to see if those patrons go in the bathroom and wash off the marks. Those people are quickly ejected, he added.
The Office Bar, 13 Whittlesey Ave., like Bluto's, has a sign on the front door prohibiting underage patrons.
"Our policy is not to allow people under 21 to stay," said Ray Sizemore, the manager for more than 10 years. "We try to stick to that."
Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 1248, 11 S. Prospect St., likely has the strictest rules for patrons to gain entry legal or otherwise. The private fraternal organization, with about 500 members, has been in business for 94 years.
Administrator Jerry Leto said friends accompanied by members in good standing can come in twice, but have to be a member to enter the business the third time.
"Every Moose member has a membership card with their identification number. We check to see if it's (current) ... or if (they are) a good standing member," Leto explained.
He estimated parents might bring in an underage person with them once every couple of weeks.
"We really don't get the 15 to 19 crowd. ... They don't really hang out with their parents," Leto said.
"We have a sign here that says you have to be 21 to sit at the bar. Everybody knows the rules when they become a member," he said.
Buy a drink for somebody underage in The Office Bar and you'll be shown the door.
"If we catch them, we'll eject them both. Usually it doesn't get to that point," Sizemore said.
Bluto's servers will pull people's drinks and eject the offenders and Davie, the owner, said that includes the underage person's relatives.
"If they do it once, they'll do it again," she said.
If necessary, Schaffer will call police to Shamrock about an underage-related alcohol offense.
"I don't like calling the police all the time. That's what they're there for," she said. "Kids are kids. They'll try anything."