Bars and restaurants are more than just venues.
They’re meeting places for friends, bachelorette parties, and unforgettable karaoke nights (with countless renditions of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”).
But although fun and entertainment are a focus, bar and restaurant owners are also responsible for preventing minors from being served alcohol. Serving minors often results in severe consequences for bars and eateries, and in the worst cases, it can result in closure and steep fines.
Ultimately, preventing minors from being served alcohol starts with understanding the laws and who’s legally responsible. Then, you can establish a culture of responsible alcohol service to avoid this all-to-common problem.
Are Bar Owners and Servers Responsible?
Yes. Legally, the responsibility for serving alcohol to a minor lies with both the establishment and the server.
The bar or restaurant owner or manager can be held liable for the actions of their employees, especially if they did not provide adequate training or supervision. Additionally, servers who knowingly or unknowingly serve alcohol to minors can also face legal consequences.
What If a Minor Uses a Fake ID?
It depends. The laws for this scenario vary by jurisdiction. As a rule, bars and restaurants are legally obligated to verify age. And generally, if the bar is making a good faith effort check for fake IDs, e.g. using ID scanners, black lights, checking expiration dates, the bar is less likely to be held liable.
Again, this varies by state, county and local ordinance. As a bar or restaurant owner, familiarize yourself with the local laws to protect yourself and take steps to establish a culture of strict ID checking guidelines.
`What Penalties Can Occur?
The legal consequences of serving alcohol to a minor can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but they can be severe. Penalties may include:
- Fines: Establishments found guilty of serving alcohol to minors can face significant fines, which can be detrimental to their finances.
- License Suspension or Revocation: The bar or restaurant’s liquor license may be suspended or revoked for serving alcohol to a minor, which can lead to the closure of the business.
- Criminal Charges: In some cases, servers or establishment owners may face criminal charges, especially if they are found to have repeatedly violated alcohol laws.
- Civil Lawsuits: The establishment and the server may be sued by the minor or their family for damages resulting from the underage alcohol service.
Factors Contributing to Underage Alcohol Service
Despite the best efforts of bar or restaurant owners and servers, several factors can contribute to the unfortunate incident of a minor being served alcohol:
- Lack of Proper Training: Failing to train staff regarding responsible alcohol service and identifying fake IDs is the No. 1 cause.
- Inadequate Supervision: Managers should be available to settle ID disputes and to create a culture of strict age verification.
- Pressure to Maximize Profits: Putting too much pressure on alcohol sales will create a culture in which sales trump safe ID checking.
How Can a Server Determine If a Guest is 21?
Verifying the age of customers is a crucial responsibility for bartenders and servers. To determine if a guest is of legal drinking age, the following steps can be taken:
- Request Valid Identification: The most reliable way to confirm a guest’s age is by asking for valid identification. Government-issued IDs like driver’s licenses, passports, or state ID cards are acceptable forms of proof.
- Check for Security Features: When verifying identification documents, look for security features such as holograms, watermarks, or other unique markings that indicate authenticity.
- Verify the Photo: Ensure that the photo on the ID matches the appearance of the guest presenting it. Check for any signs of tampering or alterations.
- Check Birthdates: Calculate the birthdate based on the information provided on the identification document to verify the guest’s age.
- Use an ID Scanner: ID scanners can help you determine quickly if an ID is valid, if the ID has expired, and will provide you with information about the individual.
Pro Tip.Trust your instincts. If something seems suspicious or off about the ID or the guest’s behavior, do not hesitate to ask for additional identification or refuse service.
Preventing Underage Alcohol Service: Quick Tips for Bars
Limiting your risk starts with company culture. There are a variety of steps that bars and restaurants can take to empower employees to catch and prevent minors from being served. Here are some steps you can take:
- Training: First and foremost, you must have a policy in place requiring your employees to verify the identity of everyone entering your place of business. Ensure that all staff members receive proper training on responsible alcohol service, including how to identify fake IDs and the legal drinking age.
- ID-Checking System: Employ advanced ID verification technology for precise age verification and as insurance against accidental service to minors. The system minimizes human errors, checks IDs thoroughly during planned stings, and provides a reliable paper trail to prove no intentional service to customers with realistic IDs.
- Regular Monitoring and Oversight: Continuously supervise and evaluate your staff’s compliance with alcohol laws to avoid lapses in responsible alcohol service.
Pro Tip.Your goal should be to create an environment where bartenders and servers feel empowered to refuse service.
When a minor is served alcohol at your bar or restaurant, both the establishment and the server are legally responsible. To avoid severe penalties and uphold your ethical duty, prioritize comprehensive training, strict ID verification procedures, and responsible alcohol service.
By fostering a culture of responsibility, you can protect your bar or restaurant, your staff, and your community from the consequences of underage alcohol service. Remember, prevention is key to a successful and reputable establishment.
Are you concerned about the possibility of minors purchasing alcohol at your establishment? Don’t wait for a potential incident to occur; take proactive steps to protect your business and uphold responsible alcohol service. With FTx Identity, you can fortify your defenses against underage drinking and ensure compliance with legal regulations.
Our cutting-edge ID verification technology is designed to accurately and efficiently verify the age of your patrons, minimizing the risk of accidental service to minors.
Contact us now to schedule a consultation and witness a demo firsthand!