Proper Restaurant and Bar Age Identification Procedures for Bartenders and Restaurant Servers to Follow

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In the hospitality industry, the tolerance has become very low for the issue of alcohol service to minors. Restaurant and bar employees who fail to require a valid identification before serving alcohol, can potentially put the establishments they work in (and their owners) in a real peril of a damaging liquor liability dram shop lawsuit. Owners and managers should always make it a very high priority that the service industry employees they employ first be instructed to always request identification from customers that may be of questionable age, and then to have all liquor serving employees be adequately trained on proper identification procedures. More importantly, it is also essential that restaurant and bar managers continue to be diligent about spot checking their employees are following proper identification protocols. These types of situations can also be verified via mystery shopping services. Secret shopper services can have criteria built into whatever mystery shopper program they may have that has certain line item criteria the mystery shoppers are to verify and report if employees ever fail to request proper identification. Failure to do so should correspond with an employee disciplinary write-up. This should also be documented, signed and then placed, as a record, in the employee’s file. Should a liquor liability lawsuit unfortunately arise, this sort of documentation can really help to indemnify owners from damaging litigation.
The business should have adequate lighting, or a bright flashlight, for its employees to adequately check identification on the front and back of ID’s. A black light or florescent light is also very helpful in distinguishing holograms on the ID or discovering any suspicious alterations or mars.
The employee should ask for a “Valid ID” not just an “ID” or “Drivers License”. This allows the guest to produce a form of identification that is valid for alcohol purchase and not just a driver’s license – military ID’s, passports, or state issued identification cards. If the subject presents the ID within a billfold with a plastic cover, ask them politely to remove it. Feeling for a fraudulent ID is an initial line of defense and may uncover an ID that is not rigid, is paper thin, has no identification printed on the back, has information or the ID taped together, and/or a picture taped over another, etc.
The first thing to view on the ID is the expiration date, not the birth date, to ensure it is a “Valid ID.” The employee should simultaneously ask the subject “How old are you?” This will be an initial test of their age. Moreover, this will effectively short circuit any attempt of entry by a CUB (Covert Underage Buyer) sting operation as any police initiated CUB representative must reveal their true age upon an employee request. If a patron “obviously” appears over the age of 35, it is suggested that entrance may be granted if it within the establishment’s policies. However, if a police officer checks an ID while the patron is on premise and it’s expired, “legally” it’s not an acceptable form of identification so “technically” the establishment still may be held liable.
Employee should then check the birth date. The most effective way to calculate allowable entry age is to take the current year subtract 20, subtract again by 1, for the allowable year. If the birth date lands after the current date, then the subject is not 21 years of age. This should become second nature with repetition.
Next process, is to verify the ethnicity and hair color of the subject printed on the ID, and determine if it and the associated picture match the demographics of the subject. One of the most obvious forms of checks is to verify that the height of the subject corresponds with what is listed on the ID. Look intently at the subject’s eyes to verify they are the same color as what is printed on the ID. This also can assist in determining if the subject is impaired when attempting entrance or purchase. If the subject claims to be wearing “colored” contact lenses, request that one of them be removed. The subject’s hair or glasses should be removed if they obscure observation. Then check the subject’s nose configuration and observe its slope and if it is wide or narrow as it flares and does it accurately corresponds to the subject’s nose. The very same process should be used with the ears to observe if they are close to the head or flair out. The same attention should be used to determine if the eyes have the same spatial distance and if the distinguishing curves of the eyebrows are what are represented in the picture. Use caution when assessing the weight printed on an ID as this is a characteristic that may very well fluctuate.
These aforementioned observations of the subject’s characteristics can also assist in discovery of a fraudulent ID that may belong to a sister, brother, cousin, relative etc. This mode of false identification is by far the most frequently used form for an underage subject attempting entry into an establishment or purchasing alcohol.
A potential patron should have no issue with a few inquiries about their identification as long as it’s performed respectfully by the employee. If a subject becomes ornery, nervous, restless, annoyed, irritated, outraged etc. or has any signs of any uneasiness, this is a clear sign for suspicion.
If the employee checking identification becomes suspicious that they may have been presented with a false or fraudulent ID, it is suggested that they begin a series of questions to the subject. Verbally ask them their birth date, middle name, address, height, eye color etc. You can also ask them to sign a piece of paper and do a cursory comparison to see if it matched the signature on the ID.
An employee who has reasonable suspicion of being given a false or fraudulent ID, it is highly recommended it be confiscated and not give the ID back to the subject. If the subject becomes ornery and demands the identification back, it is suggested that the employee inform the subject that the police will be summoned and given the ID. The police can then determine its validity and can decide upon its return.

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