Trespass Warning Universal Orlando
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Trespass Warning Universal Orlando.
Universal bans hundreds of underage drinkers during Horror Nights
Sentinel Staff Writer|
October 23, 2008
Not one sip.
That's Universal Orlando's policy toward underage drinking -- a zero-tolerance stance that is getting hundreds of people banned from the resort this month during its annual Halloween Horror Nights festival, which takes place evenings every weekend.
He Learned the hard way Saturday after he bought an alcoholic "Jell-O shot" from a roaming vendor -- then let his 17-year-old daughter, have a taste. He said the two of them and his daughter's friend, Sergio, 18, were quickly escorted out of the park and given trespass warnings that prevent their return.
"We have an aggressive zero-tolerance approach to underage drinking. It's against the law, and it's unsafe and we take it very seriously," Universal spokesman Tom Schroder explained -- even if it's just a sip. "We make no exceptions."
Last Friday and Saturday, Universal kicked out at least
127 people for underage drinking, underage possession of alcohol or providing
alcohol to a minor. Many more may have been ejected; Orlando police, in
releasing those trespass reports to the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday, noted
that paperwork was not yet finished for about half of all the Universal trespass
cases from last weekend.
Halloween Horror Nights is particularly popular with teenagers and young adults, and beer and stronger booze are sold by street vendors during the event.
Schroder insisted vendors carefully check patrons' identification cards. He would not comment on specific arrangements, but resort security and police are known to watch the crowd closely.
How warnings work
When someone is issued a trespass warning, there is no immediate criminal offense, provided the person leaves peacefully. However, if someone returns before the warning's expiration date, that person can be arrested and charged with either a first- or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. Universal's warnings cover the entire resort property, including its three resort hotels.
"They obviously have a beverages license they want to protect," said Sgt. Barbara Jones, an Orlando Police Department spokeswoman. "It's private property."
Normally, a person is banished for one year. He said he was afraid he, his daughter and Jacas were about to be arrested Saturday night, so he refused to cooperate fully -- and wound up being banned from the resort for life.
He said he's writing to Universal higher-ups to appeal the lifetime ban, but he also complained that even the one-year banishment imposed on his daughter and Jacas was too much, considering all that happened was that he let his own daughter taste his drink.
'It's a lose-lose'
"It's a lose-lose for all involved. We go there all the time, stay in the hotels, spend money. We're not bad people. They're kicking out good people as well as the bad," he said. "It's not like we're teenagers who would go there and get drunk and start a fight."
Police and Universal security stay busy during the resort's annual Halloween event, which is a separate, nighttime admission. In addition to those kicked out for underage drinking last weekend, at least 69 other visitors were "trespassed" for other reasons, ranging from public urination to marijuana possession. Some were tossed for fighting, shoplifting or even line jumping.
Among the trespass warnings obtained by the Sentinel, 115 cited underage drinking or alcohol possession, while 12 targeted people age 21 or older -- such as Alan -- who provided alcohol to a minor. The vast majority of those issued warnings were white, and most were from out of town, most typically from South Florida or the Tampa Bay area.
The youngest person busted for underage drinking was a Parkland teen several months shy of his 15th birthday. The oldest was a man from Ormond Beach who was just a week from Florida's legal drinking age of 21.
Orlando lawyer Jon Gutmacher said he gets many calls from people seeking his help after receiving trespass warnings at Universal or Walt Disney World.
He said there's not much he can do, beyond recommending that the person write the resort a nice letter seeking mercy, as Alan plans to do.
"It's insane," he said. "Unfortunately, the way the statutes are written, you can trespass anybody you don't want on your property."
Universal's zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking is not limited to Halloween Horror Nights.
Banished for life
Kathy Sherback, 47, of Tampa said she, her then-18-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter were banished for life from Universal's City Walk dining district Sept. 5 after security saw her son holding her margarita.
That case led to criminal charges when the Sherbacks' encounter with Universal security and Orlando police became heated and turned into a physical confrontation.
But it all started, she said, when she handed her drink to her son to hold while she fished around in a bag she was carrying.
"It was just getting ridiculous," she said.
Scott Powers can be reached at [email protected] or 407-420-5441.
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