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Ok, so you finally got your liquor license after wading through oodles of red tape, eh? While this was a terrific challenge in itself, it could all be taken away in one sweeping gesture. That is, if you were to sell alcohol to a minor, you may as well lock up your bar and throw away the key.
Forewarned is forearmed. It is the best way to avoid the problem altogether and make absolutely sure that your establishment is serving beer and the heavier stuff in a legal and safe manner.
This is the part where you should take a few minutes to understand the laws and regulations regarding the provision of alcoholic beverages to minors.
It is illegal for any adult to in the civilized work to pour drinks to kids. (I mean, why would you want to do that unless you want to spend time behind the bars?) In legal parlance, it translates into ‘anyone who sells alcohol to an underage person can potentially be held directly responsible for any damages and injuries that might result from the minor’s (severely) impaired state.’
In plain language. You serve booze to a kid and he takes a baseball bat to his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend’s place – ‘You’ are in big trouble. After all, it was your bar that served the drinks in the first place and now you have to pay the piper.
It is not just you alone who will have to face the music. Your bartender, who actually made the sale, can also be charged with a 2nd-degree misdemeanor. This can mean a $500 fine or two months in the can, or both. This is just for first-time offenders. If you make the same mistake again, then the charges will increase in severity with every subsequent offense.
Most of the time, the first time you slip up, you may get a ‘slap on the wrist’ courtesy a warning or even a temporary suspension of your bar license, provided no damage has been caused by a drunk minor.
However, a more serious infraction of the rules can also result in the license being completely revoked. This will mean that you not only lose just this bar, but you also lose the right to open another one.
Across the pond, the Brits have come up with a “Three strikes and you are out” policy. That is, if you are caught serving drinks to minors three times then you have to cough up 20k Pounds and you also lose your license for a 90 day period.
Generally speaking, the cops may not probe too deeply if your bartender does not ask for an ID from someone who looks over the age of the legal drinking age on a particularly crowded weekend. But there is always an exception to the rule.
So we will assume that your bartender is always on the straight and narrow and a stickler for the rules. But what if the waiter, bartender or even the bouncer does ask for identification and the smart-aleck kid produces some realistic-looking ID that proclaims to all that the kid is well… Not really a kid. In this case, your bar will be safe. That is, no one will file any charges against you.
However, the key term here is “realistic.” If it is patently obvious that the minor’s ID is a fake, then you will be held liable for serving hard liquor to a minor.
What if you served liquor to a minor because the coworker checked the id? Well, as the owner of the establishment (or the bartender), it is still your responsibility to check and see that the person in front of you is a real adult. This holds true even if your friend hollered across the table and gave you a double thumbs up!
In a nutshell, if the guard, bouncer, server and everyone else inside the bar insist that they have checked the ID, you should not take their word for it. As the person serving the drinks, it is still your responsibility to confirm the age of your customer.
This means that if you serve booze to a minor even after the coworker thoroughly checked the ID, you will still be held liable because, in the end, it was you who sold alcohol to a kid.
What should you do in case an adult customer insists that he will take care of the kid and you should bring him a drink? While the waiter is serving food, a minor is allowed by the law to sit at the table. But, not at the bar itself.
This is because a bar is prima facie the place for drinking not eating. If you see an adult offering a drink to a minor in front of you, you really should go and urge him to see the error of his ways. If he doesn’t, then you should ask the bouncer to ‘show him the error of his ways’ a bit more forcefully. It’s very simple really. It is your bar and it’s your license that’s on the line.
The most effective way to avoid selling to minors … is not to sell alcohol to kids. However, it’s not that simple. Many sting operations that are specifically designed to collar bartenders do not take into account the fact that the kids have been waving fake IDs all over the place.
This is why the honest, law-abiding bartender and all support staff should start by checking the ID of each and every individual who enters your bar. And this process should be repeated when they ask for a drink. This double trouble should weed out the trouble makers and should go a long way in securing your establishment from the legal penalties of serving minors.
The kids will go looking for greener pastures. But that does not mean that you will be completely safe. This is why you should get a scanning device to scan the ID of every suspicious customer. There are now even smartphone apps that do this sort of a thing and are almost uncannily accurate.
Unfortunately, kids nowadays are more tech-savvy than most adults. And when it comes to drinking and other forbidden pleasures, then they can easily order fake IDs by the dozens online. There is a thriving market for realistic fake IDs and it is growing day by day.
Minors just shy of the legal age uses them purely as a form of amusement. They get the kick out of bamboozling adults and may even boast of what they have done once they are done with their drinks. And if it is not your lucky day, an undercover cop will be there to pounce. There goes your license and your reputation. The more time it happens, the more you will attract the undesired attention of your local law enforcement agencies.
If you are strict when it comes to following the law, then many kids may take it as a sort of challenge to try and pass off as adults at your bar. This way the prosperity of your establishment might be seriously jeopardized through no fault of your own.
After all, the law is not exactly ambivalent when a member of your staff is caught selling hard booze to a minor. This is the part where you should start going through the yellow pages to find a really good legal beagle to help you out of your nightmare.
If you play your cards right, your attorney will not only help you keep your liquor license intact but, in case the unthinkable has happened, they will also help get it back for you! In fact, it would be a really good idea to keep the contact number of such a lawyer handy, if you are located near a high school, college or similar high-risk area.
These areas are also liable to attract the attention of child protection services and law enforcement officers who might keep your bar under close surveillance for no other reason than the fact that it is located close to places where kids like to hang around.
The increasing sophistication of fake IDs has become an absolute nightmare for the people responsible for running bars and other establishments where alcoholic beverages are regularly served. But if you take a few precautionary measures, you might remain safe and also hold on to your liqueur license.
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