Fake IDs vs new ID scanners: Reno’s Young Adults take their Chances at Local Bars

New ID scanners have been implemented in local bars and underage drinkers feel fake IDs are being confiscated by bouncers more than ever before. Kelsey Middleton, Carlos Perez, Sean Sear and Troy Welling report on the different reactions to the new scanners by bar employees, the police, underage and of age bar goers.

Little Waldorf Saloon known as the Wal uses a scanner for everyone who wants to get in. The scanner beeps and shows a green check mark if the ID is real. If it is fake, it does not beep and shows a red check mark. Photo by Carlos Perez.

TikTok recently blew up with videos about ID scanners at bars being upgraded, leading to an increase in fake IDs being confiscated. In college towns, such as Reno, this affected the amount of people showing up at different bars and what age groups occupy bars now.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are when lines are formed outside of bars around downtown Reno and near the university starting at 10 p.m. Students at the University of Nevada, Reno can be seen walking from the apartments and dorm to bars, especially the Little Waldorf Saloon. People go to the bouncer to get their ID scanned or looked at before being allowed to go inside.

A few months ago is when havoc arose for the young adults going to bars. Many fake ID users took a break from going to the bar, in fear of the new scanners being able to detect the fact they are truly fake. People who are 21 and older noticed the decrease in the underaged at bars but have slowly seen it increase again.

Two well known bars around campus are the Little Waldorf Saloon, known as the Wal, and the Stick. They have seen different outcomes with the implementation of the new scanners.

A long-time bartender at the Stick, who requested anonymity, hasn’t seen a drop in attendance or in methods being used to detect fakes.

“To be honest, I don’t know anyone that uses scanners,” said the bartender. “I’m old school. Look at it and bend it.”

He explained that there’s usually a clue in weeding out fakes, some more obvious than others.

“Fake IDs don’t bend the same way as real ones,” said the bartender.

Fakes tend to be stiffer and the tone of blue in the background of the photos accompanied by the obvious disparities of lighting makes it a tell-tale sign that it’s fake.

The Little Waldorf Saloon is located walking distance from campus and student residences. The doors open at 10 p.m. although it starts to get busy closer to 11 or 12 depending on the night. Photo by Carlos Perez.

On the other hand, a well-known manager at the Wal, who also requested to be anonymous for the sake of his job, uses the scanners and has seen a small drop in attendance. The manager has noticed more IDs showing up as fake and the customers are catching onto it. A scanner doesn’t beep when it’s fake and shows a red check mark. A real ID will make the scanner beep and a green check mark shows up.

“If someone is underage they’re usually coming in with someone who is already of age, so really the scanners are probably keeping a few people home,” the Wal manager explained.

Underage students getting caught with a fake ID can lead to many different outcomes.

“If it is in somebody else’s name, they can be charged with Identity Theft, which is a felony,” said Detective Sergeant Bryan McQuattie of the Reno Police Financial/Computer Crimes Department. He responded to our interview request by email. “If they present a fake ID to a police officer, they can also be charged with obstructing and resisting arrest,” he wrote.

The police review bars frequently to make sure the employees are checking IDs. They also have their own personal digital assistants, PDAs, that scan the barcode of an ID. This populates the information which helps in detecting fake IDs.

The Stick is a bar downtown. It has two levels and most bouncers don’t use a scanner and use their knowledge to pick out the fakes. It is known for being very crowded compared to other bars. Photo by Carlos Perez.

An anonymous underage person who goes to the bar, who will be referred to as Bill, is 20. He attends the Stick and other bars using his fake ID. At the bar, he has spent up to $80 and $100 on whiskey tequila shots, cranberry vodkas and red bull vodkas.

It took Bill a few weeks to get his fake ID shipped to him. The cost of his varied between $60 to $100 depending on where he ordered it from and how good it is. He hasn’t gotten his fake taken away or had any of his friends get theirs taken.

When Bill uses his fake, he makes sure to stay calm and act normal. He knew about the fake scanners but wasn’t really scared about it.

“It (the scanners) hasn’t really made any progress because lots of people with like the shittiest fakes I’ve seen have gone through,” Bill said.

Another underage person, who will be referred to as Tim, is also 20 and also has a fake ID. He goes to the Wal almost every week on Thursdays and Saturdays to drink rum and coke, vodka crans, gin, tonics and tequila shots. He tries to spend under $50 but some nights it gets up to $100 or more.

Unlike the couple of weeks it took Bill to get his fake, Tim had to wait three to four months and drop $80 to $100. If he didn’t have a big group all buying the fakes at once, he could’ve spent up to $180.

Tim had seen three or four of his friends get their fake IDs taken, but he hasn’t got his taken. Some of his friends are afraid to go to the bars now because of the new scanners being used. He says he’s a little more ballsy and isn’t nervous when it comes to using his fake at bars.

The final anonymous underage person with a fake ID will be referred to as Joe. He is also 20, and goes to the Wal and other bars two or three nights a week. His spending limit he has is $40 a night and he likes to order vodka red bull or a lemon drop.

Joe got his picture for his fake ID taken professionally. He sent it to the guy who makes the fakes, gave him $100 and waited almost two months to get it back. He did have one of his fakes taken.

“I think he’s (the bouncer) been doing it a while, so he has a good eye,” Joe said. “He had a special light and he gave it a scan and whatever he saw with his tool, he knew. And he was like, ‘sorry man, you gotta go’ and took it.”

West Second Street Bar is in downtown Reno known for the karaoke going on throughout the night. Depending on the bouncer, some check IDs with a scanner and some look at them using the bend or light method. This bar is known to be more strict with catching fake IDs so there are usually barely any underage in the bar. Photo by Carlos Perez.

Even though people who are 21 and older don’t have to worry about their IDs being taken for being fake, they have experienced underage people at bars.

Michael Dennis, who is of age to drink, attends bars at least once or twice a week. His favorite drinks are a shot of any liquor or tequila with lime. In one night, he spends anywhere from $20 to $40 at a bar. Thursdays you can find him at the Stick because of the deals they have on their drinks, but you won’t see him at the Wal.

“I would say there are definitely more people underage then there should be at these bars,” Dennis said. “And I don’t wanna call out the Wal, but I think the Wal specifically has that problem, the majority underage. And that’s why we don’t go there anymore.”

Dennis heard about new scanners being put into the bars and liked the switch. It didn’t affect him now that he just turned 21, but he liked the idea of not having underage people at the bar. Dennis has seen a lot of problems with underage drinking and underage people at the bars and law enforcement now stepping in to fix it.

“You ask someone for their ID and if they have an ID and it scans, then you gotta let ’em in,” Dennis said. “Well, how are you gonna improve that? There’s only one option I can think of. And it’s that it’s improving that scanning, making it so that less underage people will be able to make their way through with a fake ID.”

Another bar attendee over the age of 21, whose name does not want to be shared, noticed similar things as Derek. The more ‘college’ bars have underage people while others are more mature. She spends $30 to $40 a night, mostly on cucumber mojitos.

It is known that bars are usually more lenient on letting women in. This could possibly be because men like to pay for women’s drinks, leading to an increase in revenue.

She didn’t hear about the new scanners being used but still notices underage people at all of the bars she goes to.

“I think a lot of the bars, that at least most underaged kids go to, did not implement that scanner role,” she said. “I still see a lot of bars just looking at the ID briefly and then letting them in actually at more supposedly strict bars.”

Now knowing about the new scanners, she feels that they were created because underage drinkers are being more rowdy these days.

Derek, also above 21, who didn’t want to disclose his last name, goes to bars once or twice a week. The Wal is close to where he lives so he goes there frequently to get vodka red bulls, vodka crans and shots. Derek spends less than $50 a night on drinks.

Derek noticed that at the bars downtown he doesn’t notice many underage people who attend. Although at the more ‘college’ bars around town there are way more underaged customers he says. Derek knew about the new scanners that were put in place and saw a drastic change in the amount of fake IDs being taken.

“If I was like underage with a fake ID, I’d be a little more wary of going to those places because of that,” Derek said. “Even just last weekend, I saw a couple people get their fakes taken, so they (the scanners) definitely work.”

Derek believes there have been too many incidents of underage bar attendees making bad decisions that could hurt the bar’s reputation. These incidents would be in the bar’s responsibility and could get them in a lot of trouble since they allowed the underage person in, unable to catch their fake ID. He thinks the scanners are a way to keep the bar out of trouble and stay open.

Driving around Reno on the weekends, you can still see bars with lines outside the doors. Even with the implementation of the new scanners, it doesn’t look like bars are losing much business.

Reporting by Kelsey Middleton, Carlos Perez, Sean Sear and Troy Welling for the Reynolds Sandbox

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