A fashionable Old Town restaurant violated a 19-year-old girl's rights last September when it refused to serve her a beer, the Alexandria Human Rights Commission has ruled.

If upheld by the courts, the ruling could have broad implications for the city's trendy Old Town district, where restaurants and nightspots have imposed a voluntary ban on beer sales to people under age 21. The ban grew out of allegations that the district has been the frequent scene of raucous, late night behavior.

The Human Rights agency, however, concluded Tuesday night that the Warehouse Restaurant breached the city's age discrimination ordinance when is refused to sell Joleane Dutzman a beer. Although the ruling is not legally binding, commission members said that if the restaurant does not begin serving people between ages 18 and 21 within 15 days of receiving a notice of their opinion, it may ask the city attorney to take the case to the courts.

The case could affect about 20 others restaurants and bars in the area that have agreed not to serve beer to persons under 21 years of age. Virginia law, however, currently allows persons 18 or over to buy beer.

"There were virtually no facts disputed in the case," Commission Chairman Marilynn Eaton said yesterday. "They [the Warehouse] have the right to refuse on the basis of intoxication, improper dress or disorderly conduct, but none of those were an issue in this case. The Warehouse simply refused to serve her [Dutzman] on the basis of her age and that is clearly a violation of the city ordinance."

Th owner of the restaurant, Bruce Betzel, could not be reached for comment but earlier indicated plans to challenge the ruling. n

The complaint has whipped up a maelstrom of accusations and counteraccusations in the often staid City Council chambers where council members have postponed a decision about whether to strip the commission of its powers over the sale of alcohol in the city. One commission member has resigned in protest and another is expected to quit soon. The council is likely to reach a decision on the issue at its meeting next tuesday. c