Police sirens broke up what was a lively evening at restaurant and bar Johnny Utah’s in Norwalk, Conn. On April 19, around 11:45 p.m. officers from the Norwalk Police Department and agents from the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission conducted a liquor compliance check on the business. They discovered 103 underage persons, 93 of which were Fairfield University students.
The students were described by police as intoxicated and unable to present identification. One anonymous student described the scene, “A little before 12 [midnight], the lights turned on and the cops showed up. That happened a few weeks ago, so I didn’t think anything would happen. I think there were 15 police officers.”
Norwalk Police Department called in ECS transportation and the Fairfield University Department of Public Safety to assist with the situation due to the number of people present. Police had previously received reports of underage patrons being served alcohol.
“Apparently it was more about shutting down the establishment because it is a known spot for selling alcohol to underage drinkers,” said the same anonymous student.
The bar which, boasts itself as “home to South Norwalk’s only mechanical bull,” opened in 2014. The establishment is supposedly about to undergo a renovation, “the reason a lot people were going is because Johnny Utah’s was going to close and be renovated into a different type of lounge that wouldn’t be a scene for college students,” said a student.
According to the Johnny Utah’s website, the bar has a country theme centered around, “… unique promotions and promiscuous atmosphere. Cowgirls, cowboys and rock stars of all kinds are encouraged to come in and get wild.”
Due to this incident, the establishment has had its liquor license suspended by the Department of Consumer protection.
Some underage students entered the bar with fake identification. One student recounted the police officers’ request for students, “we were more or less detained for three hours while police officers were taking down our information. They were asking for fake IDs that people were willing to give up.”
The student admitted they had entered the bar with a fake ID, “I told them [the police officers] that I was without an ID because I entered with my friend’s ID and it had a name that wasn’t mine. But when I left, I left with my real name.”
DPS coordinated a bus from the University to come and transport students back to campus. One student explained their lack of concern regarding the incident, “I personally am not that wigged out. Being from N.Y. and dealing with N.Y. cops, dealing with Norwalk cops don’t make me that stressed. It was an easy experience compared to what I have experienced in the past.”
In a press release, the Norwalk Police Department stated, “No arrests have been made at this
time however this investigation remains ongoing.” Lieutenant Ritchie of DPS echoed this statement and said that DPS has yet to receive the list of names gathered by Norwalk PD.
The day after the incident took place, April 20, an email was sent by Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Karen Donoghue to the sophomore and first-year classes. Students were reminded to “… abide by all state and federal guidelines.”
However Donoghue stipulated that the email was sent out as a general reminder rather than in response to a specific incident. She reiterated that any students found in violation of University policy, on or off campus, are subject to disciplinary action.
DPS Officer Ritchie said that any students involved will be referred to the student conduct when the investigation is complete.
Despite this, many of the involved students do not seem to be worried. One student described a sense of calm amidst the chaos of the raid saying, “officers there were saying don’t worry because you aren’t in trouble.”