Internationals face bar entry-policy
| Robin Siteneski reporter |
On Jan. 23, Gustavo Brandalise went to 505 Bar with four friends, two Americans and two foreign students. He presented his Brazilian driver’s license to enter the bar as he had done before. The license, in Portuguese, shows his photo and his date of birth spelled in the format of day, month, year: 12/08/1991.
On this night, however, his driver’s license wasn’t good enough: The doorman wouldn’t let the international students in with their forms of ID. They had to be driven home by the Americans to get their passports.
“I understand their position,” says Brandalise, 22, exchange student in advertising. “The problem with them asking for an original passport to go into a party is the risk of losing it.”
He was with a friend from Finland who tried to use an English-translated Finnish ID, but that also was not acceptable to the doorman.
At the start of the spring semester, 505 Bar, one of downtown Pittsburg’s most popular night spots, instructed its employees to be more selective in checking the identification of international customers. The bar began asking internationals to present their passports or an American ID to enter.
Previously, it accepted most forms of ID from students’ home countries. For some of Pittsburg State’s 421 international students, their passport is now the only form of accepted ID at the bar.
Mike Sittner, 505 Bar owner, says the policy is “for the safety of our business.”
“We don’t care where you’re from,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep things consistent.”
The policy change is meant to guard against the use of fake IDs or sharing of legitimate IDs to underage students. Bar employees may not understand some forms of national ID, Sittner says.
For his part, Brandalise says he understands that the bar has to abide by the restrictions of its liquor license.
Lost in translation
“They’re trying to avoid underage people going into the bar because they would be responsible if anything happened,” Brandalise said. “That could be bad for the bar and people who go there.”
Brandalise says he plans to be in the United States for a semester, and he is not going to get an American ID since he can get into other bars with his Brazilian documents. He has an international driver’s license that he used to rent a car.
“The bad side of this is that people who are actually not underage have to take their most important document to a party, where it could be lost or stolen,” he said.
Word spread about 505’s new policy. Finnish student Carita Kankkunen, 23, was prepared by the time she went to the bar for the first time a week after Brandalise and his friends had to use their passports. She says she took her passport and tried to keep it safe.
“I keep it in my cross-body purse and try to be really careful and not to leave it unattended,” said Kankkunen, an exchange student.
She added that she is “OK” with the policy because she is used to dealing with strict alcohol regulations in Finland. Kankkunen is attending Pitt State for a semester.
“I would rather use my driver’s license since my visa is in my passport,” she said.
Jeffrey Hashman, international student adviser, says students who lose their passports are able to replace them. But the replacement waiting time and fees depend on each country’s bureaucracy.
“To legally be in the U.S., international students have to have their passports,” Hashman said.
“So if they lost it, I would tell them to contact their embassy as soon as possible.
“Sometimes, they have to go to their embassy, say in Washington, D.C., sometimes the embassy will let them mail it (the documents for getting a replacement passport). It just depends on the country.”
Hashman says he advises students to keep copies of their passports and immigration documents and have photos of their passports on their phones.
“If something happened, having a copy is really helpful because at least you can show the government, ‘See, I am here legally, but my document was stolen or lost,’” Hashman added, saying he wouldn’t advise taking a passport to a bar.
Alternatives accepted by 505 are either a Kansas ID or an American driver’s license. Both of these are issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) located at the Meadowbrook Mall.