As more consumers seek out local breweries, distilleries, and wineries, the potential risk of underage drinking increases. Maryland state law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 years of age. In an effort to enforce sales of alcohol to adults, county liquor boards and their enforcement agencies (county liquor inspector, county sheriff, local police, etc.) are authorized to carry out unannounced and undercover, controlled purchases of alcohol using underage agents.
On- and off-premise retail licensees face this enforcement on a regular basis and breweries, distilleries, and wineries have reported that they, too, are experiencing increased compliance checks with regard to underage service. Non-compliant service of minors could result in fines, criminal charges, and suspension of an establishment’s retail beer/wine/liquor license(s).
The following best practices might be worth exploring in the event your business is visited for a compliance check.
ID Check Best Practices
- Train your staff to require ID for any guests who appear younger than a chosen age. For example, all guests at this establishment that appear to be under 35 years old are to have their ID verified prior to service of alcohol. This approach is difficult as there is some difficulty in judging age during a brief interaction, in bad lighting, etc.
- Implement a 100% ID verification policy. There aren’t many reasons not to ask all guests for their ID when they order alcohol in your establishment. This type of policy offers assurance that, when properly implemented, the service staff does not serve alcohol to underage patrons/visitors.
- Daily review of valid birthdates. During pre-opening meetings, or when employees report for their shift, discuss the acceptable, valid date for alcohol service. This step prevents confusion about what birthdate meets the over 21 criteria.
- Unless it is your business practice to provide guests with a wristband or stamp to indicate they have been verified, consider reminding your service team that a drink in-hand does not constitute age verification.