Underage drinking is a problem that persists in Green Country despite many efforts by police and local groups to stop it. Tulsa has bars that legally cater to the under 21 crowd, where teenagers are not supposed to be able to drink like adults. Many teenagers tell us though, that's exactly what they do. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports that after an 18-year-old was shot in the head inside a Tulsa bar last month, we decided to go undercover.
We chose a couple of 18-year-old girls who are not from Tulsa and had never been into a bar before. We outfitted them with a hidden camera and sent them into 18 and over clubs. We notified the Tulsa Police Department and got the permission of the girls' parents
The first night undercover, Saturday, April 14th around 11:30 p.m., Cassie and Haley make their first foray into the nightclub scene by going to the Ministry. Once they enter, the dim lights make it hard for the camera to see much and the loud music makes it tough to hear conversations. They get the lay of the land, and then Haley approaches the bar and orders a drink.
"Can I get a beer?" said Haley.
She receives one and just as instructed, they quickly find a place to throw it away, leave the club and make their way outside to report to us, where we're waiting in the parking lot.
"She just went up and gave her the money and she handed it to her," said Cassie.
"You did? How surprised were you how easy it was?" asked crime reporter Lori Fullbright.
"It was easy," said Haley.
"I figured at least she'd ask to see a bracelet or something, they just handed it to us," said Cassie.
The next week on Friday, April 20th, around midnight, we begin with a club that has been the Beach and the Midnight Rodeo, but is now Imperio Norteno. They go inside, show their IDs and get bracelets that mark them as under 21. Within about five minutes, a waitress takes their order.
â€œDo you want something to drink?" asked the waitress.
"Bud light," said Haley.
This time, the girls make an effort to get enough light on the beer bottle that it can be seen by their hidden camera before putting it down and coming outside to give us the scoop.
"Her bracelet is visible, so they knew," said Cassie.
"Because she has a short sleeved shirt," said crime reporter Lori Fullbright.
"She handed her the beer in this hand, so she saw it. They didn't care," said Cassie.
We move to the Club Corral, but as we arrive the crowd is following the DJ to the Genesis Bar, so we go along. The girls walk up, pay their cover charges, then run into a roadblock, bouncers with handheld metal detectors.
"Can I see inside your purse and your ID?" asked the bouncer.
We head back to the Corral, where the crowd is now smaller at 1:40 in the morning. The girls show their IDs and get their under 21 bracelets. They are not able to buy beer, but a customer offers them drugs.
â€œWe walked around to the back and two guys came up, do you smoke weed? Today's 4:20. No, no thank you," said Cassie. "The bar is sectioned off with bouncers at the bar. We tried sneaking by and they said you have to be 21 to be back here."
The next night, we head back to the Corral around 1 a.m. Two police cars are there, along with an ambulance, hauling away a 20-year-old woman who had passed out in the parking lot.
â€œOnce we got her revived, she said she'd been in the club drinking,â€ said Tulsa Police Cpl Dan Miller. â€œEMSA came and checked her out and took her to the hospital because they were afraid she had alcohol poisoning."
Despite all the activity, we send in the girls. Just as they go inside, fire marshals show up to do an occupancy check. Things are pretty low key and they don't buy beer. The marshals tell us they'd cited the club three weeks ago for being overcrowded, but now, all is in order.
"How often do you do this?" asked crime reporter Lori Fullbright.
"When we get complaints, especially the younger clubs get overcrowded, we get out there," said the fire marshal.
We give the Ministry a second chance. There are police cars out front, but still the girls go in and give it a try.
This time, the bartender asks for their over 21 bracelet, which they don't have, so they're refused the beer. It's been an eye-opening experience for these girls, even though they know from friends and school, kids find a way to drink.
"Everyone knows this happens," said Cassie.
â€œJust tonight, talked to a girl who was drunk?" asked crime reporter Lori Fullbright.
"Yes," said Cassie.
"Underage?" asked crime reporter Lori Fullbright.
"Yes, they were telling us places to go," said Cassie.
The manager of the Ministry, Steve Kitchell, said he was shocked when we told him one of the girls bought beer in his club. He says that goes against policy and the way he trains employees. He also told us he wants the girls in our story ticketed.
He said kids are ingenious at figuring out ways to drink, from buddying up to club employees, to buying the bracelets from over 21 customers and even hiring an artist to reproduce stamps put on the hands of those over 21.
The lawyer for the Club Corral told us they believe the 20-year-old who required an ambulance, didn't get the alcohol from the bartender, but probably talked older friends into buying it for her.
He says if bouncers see that, they confiscate the drink and ban the customer.
We did not hear back from the owners of the Imperio Norteno.
The ABLE Commission does not have authority over clubs that sell only beer. It's up to local officers to enforce laws in those clubs. They say it is often hard to do because these clubs pop up and close so quickly. Clubs that only sell 3.2 beer can stay open as late as they choose. Technically they could stay open 24 hours, much like convenience stores. The law does require these clubs to make more money from cover charges than beer sales. ABLE does monitor clubs that also sell liquor. They say if those clubs get caught selling to minors, their license could be pulled.
The city licensing office could not provide a list of the all the 18 and over clubs in Tulsa, because licenses only designate if a place that sells alcohol is a restaurant or a club, but not the age requirements.
Watch The Video: Going Undercover To Investigate Area Teen Night Clubs
WEB EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Tulsa Club Scene Investigation Heading Into Club Corral
WEB EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Tulsa Club Scene Investigation Inside Imperio Norteno