BY SARAH KRAUSS AND BRIANNA BISHOP
News Editor and Staff Writer
Local student hot-spot Plaza Tapatia failed an alcohol compliance check conducted by the Wicomico County Task Force as a result of illegally selling alcohol to a minor during a January inspection.
The task, called “Operation Spot Check,” visited 21 businesses in Wicomico to determine if businesses were properly carding patrons who attempted to purchase alcohol; Plaza Tapatia on South Salisbury Boulevard was the only to fail the routine check involving Maryland State Police cadets.
Plaza Tapatia, founded in 1982, is a nine-restaurant chain on the Eastern Shore and advertises that it “proudly serves authentic Mexican cuisine with prompt, friendly service,” according to its website. Students are drawn to the establishment for its reasonably-priced cuisine and bar.
Tasks forces like these occur multiple times throughout the year in Wicomico County in an effort to eliminate underage drinking. Restaurants face repercussions for failing the check, including expensive fines and possible liquor license suspension, two consequences which could damage the financial prospects for Plaza.
SU students, however, are not surprised by news of the failed check. Many students associate Plaza with pitchers of margaritas and lenient I.D. requests.
“This incident doesn’t surprise me,” said Fawn Nicholson, SU junior. “I go to Plaza every week with friends for happy hour and most of the time, we are never carded. I think something like this was bound to happen.”
The same sentiment was expressed by 42 students who participated in a self-selected survey. Forty-five percent of students said that they have ordered alcohol at Plaza without a server requiring an I.D.
Because of the restaurant’s close proximity to SU’s campus and the large number of students who attend happy hour weekly, a loss of license may decrease the number of student consumers and impact the business. Fifty percent of those surveyed said they would not go to Plaza if the restaurant did not sell alcohol, demonstrating just how much Plaza could suffer from the failed check.
Students are not happy about the restaurant’s failed check, as the restaurant has become a staple location in the college town.
“I think another local bar, like the Monkey Barrel or maybe the Deli, will now get more business if Plaza loses their liquor license,” said SU senior James Cooke. “I hope they don’t, but I feel like there will be some type of consequence to come out of this. Either that or Salisbury becomes stricter on carding people.”
Other students have not had the same experience with Plaza. Sixty-six percent of surveyed students said they have not received an alcoholic drink at the restaurant when they did not have a valid I.D.
Students should not panic yet, however, because it appears that Plaza is able to serve to those who are 21 and older. Management of Plaza Tapatia was not able to comment or confirm.