Fight, new lax-carding claims could slam door on U-Md. bar

COLEGE PARK, MD- OCTOBER, 19. The Thirsty Turtle, is the most popular bar in College Park for students under 21 to get drinks. The University of Maryland police Chief David B. Mitchell and other College Park leaders are calling for the place to shut down.MD. 2010. (Photo by Juana Arias/For the Washington Post)
COLEGE PARK, MD- OCTOBER, 19. The Thirsty Turtle, is the most popular bar in College Park for students under 21 to get drinks. The University of Maryland police Chief David B. Mitchell and other College Park leaders are calling for the place to shut down.MD. 2010. (Photo by Juana Arias/For the Washington Post) (Juana Arias)

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By Jenna Johnson
Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Thirsty Turtle has been open for only three years, but that's long enough for the bar to develop a reputation and following among University of Maryland students.

Turtle, as students call it, is known for its packed dance floor, loud music, sticky floors, cheap drinks and, as the College Park bar has been charged with, often lax carding at the door.

"They call it the freshman bar," said Brian Hearn, 21, a senior communications major. "It was a joke getting in there. I guess it still is."

Last week, police responded to a fight that turned into a stabbing on Route 1, which involved five intoxicated men who had been at the bar. Three of the victims were underage U-Md. students.

It wasn't the first time drunk students have been connected to the bar, said David B. Mitchell, the new chief of the university's police department.

In the first three weeks of the semester, 26 students were hospitalized for alcohol-related issues, a sharp increase from last year. Several told police that they'd been drinking at Turtle, Mitchell said, which was also confirmed by student affairs and residence life officials.

Turtle was "the primary problem - not the only problem, but the primary problem," Mitchell said.

Last week, Mitchell urged city officials to shut down the Route 1 bar, saying at a news conference that he wished he could padlock the doors himself. A liquor licensing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3.

"I will use every legal angle at my disposal to ensure the safety of my students," Mitchell said. "I will use anything and everything."

Linda Carter, a lawyer who represents Turtle owner Alan Wanuck, said that the bar is still investigating the allegations against it but that evidence uncovered so far "is leading to a far different story." When those facts come to light, Carter said, "I don't think people are going to want to close down the Thirsty Turtle."

Of the three popular student bars near campus, Turtle is the largest and often the site of student fundraisers.

Although it's a popular late-night bar, with long lines forming outside most weekend nights, students say it's also the easiest place to snag a table during happy hour.


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