“I’m going to need to see some I.D.”

In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21 years old.  Sorry that’s just the way it is. As an Owner, it your responsibility to make sure that your employees are ensuring that everyone on your premises, at any given time, has been properly identified and is of legal drinking age.  And as a Security Staffer, even if you are not scheduled to a Front Door/Doorman shift—and aren’t charged with the task of ID’ing— it is your responsibility to point out anyone you have reason to think is drinking and is under 21. After all, if the establishment is shut down for serving to an underage Patron, you will have no job, which means no money, which means that YOU can’t go out for drinks!

But seriously…


Plain and simple. Don’t serve minors. It is stupid. It is dangerous. It is irresponsible. It can cost you and the bar A LOT of money. And I’m pretty sure that you started this business to make money!

On a more serious note, underage drinking is a big problem in today’s society. And working in/owning an establishment that serves alcohol opens you up to huge liability in regards to underage drinkers. Surprisingly, many Owners are lax when it comes to serving to minors. It is only when the Owner is caught or in some cases the underage drinker is involved in a tragic event, that they change their tune. Don’t be one of these Owners!

The first thing to keep in mind is that minors WILL try to enter your establishment. Whether high-schoolers looking for a thrill or underage Fraternity brothers, sooner or later someone will make an attempt to get a drink at your bar.


1) Training – Every member of your Security/Wait/Bar Staff MUST complete some sort of RBS (Responsible Beverage Service…called different things in different places) training. This will give them at least a basic understanding of the symptoms of intoxication and what to look for when examining ID cards. Your local Police department should have at least one officer tasked with running this training. If you hire new employees on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to do a training every 6 months to 1 year.

2) Set Policy – That means every employee is told not to serve to minors and that Doormen ID everyone who enters. The number of Doormen who don’t card entering Patrons is frightening. Print your ID policy and have it posted at the Front Door. That way, if anyone complains, you can just show it to them..end of discussion.

So, what should your ID policy be? Great question, to which there is no set answer. But there are a few guidelines that work well across the board. Keep in mind that different states, have different regulations. Always check with your state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board before setting policy (http://www.marininstitute.org/alcohol_policy/state_alcohol_control.htm)

Restrict your accepted forms of ID to the following:

An Identification card or Driver’s License issued by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

A U.S. Passport issued by the State Department of the United States.

Any other state-approved Identification card consisting of any one of the following, provided that it also contains a photograph, description of the person, signature of the person, and an identifying number:

A Passport issued by a foreign government, provided that it has been stamped by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. Be wary off Mexican passports as many are forgeries!

Driver’s license issued by another state.

An Identification card issued by another state

A Military identification card issued by any branch of the armed forces of the United States

The forms of ID listed above are acceptable because they posses all of the following, required criteria:

1.     Person’s photo

2.     Physical description

3.     Date of birth, proving 21+ status

4.     Current validity, with future expiration date

5.     Full name

You may, on occassion, receive and expired ID. It is up to your discretion as to what procedures you wish to follow at this point. At the very least, the individual in question should be able to provide a secondary form of ID an ID renewal slip of some kind.


I’ve seen many employees unwilling to ask for the ID of an individual they perceive to be of a certain age, or with a group of individuals, or because they are a woman, etc. A Doorman should never be embarrassed to ask for ID. If someone is insulted because you asked, that is their problem, not yours. So, ask away!

1.     Ask for the ID of any person who appears less than 35 years of age. Yeah, 35. If you don’t know their age, ask for their ID.

2.     Don’t hesitate to ask someone for an ID just because you have previously seen them inside the bar or in another bar.  Always have a specific, working knowledge of someone’s age by ID’ing the person, not assuming or using memory.

3.     Don’t hesitate to ID someone already on the premises if you have reason to believe they might not be of age. This can be a big problem. If you spot someone looking young, ask for ID! They may have slipped in when you weren’t watching. It happens.

4.     Refuse entry to anyone without proper ID, or who you feel is submitting fraudulent identification. Period. Don’t allow yourself to be embarrassed or brow beaten. No ID, No Entry.


Sometimes, well o.k., a lot of times, you are handed an ID that doesn’t necessarily pass the test. How do you handle it? When ID’ing a potential Patron whose age evidence doesn’t quite stand up, or whose overall demeanor calls into possible question the validity of their reported age, Security Staff can do some of the following to help derive the person’s actual age:

a)     Ask them to sign their name and compare to the signature on ID. It won’t match if it’s not their ID.

b)    Ask them what month they are born. Most people memorize the month’s number, not the actual month if they are borrowing an ID.

c)     Ask for 2nd or 3rd form of ID to back up their original claim. Everyone carries at least a bank card with them!

d)    Without the person in question being able to hear, ask a companion the name of the person in question as further proof of actual name.

6.     Utilize out-of-state/international ID books. These are hugely helpful if you don’t know what IOWA’s IDs look like.

7.     Pay close attention to the demeanor of Patrons at the door.  There are a number of rituals people often slip into when they aren’t of drinking age:

  • Turning their heads to talk to friends
  • Acting insulted that their age is being questioned
  • Refusing to show the contents of a purse or wallet (as in other forms of verifying ID, etc.)

Also, a quick analysis of someone’s demeanor might also hint at a person’s aggressive temperament, and identifying this early can either help keep that person out of the club at your discretion, or at least illicit a comment from you to them so the Patron knows they will potentially be watched inside.

Remember, the only Staff members able to officially vouch for a person’s age are the Owners and scheduled Door personnel. Make it a habit that NO ONE vouches for an individual. That way your Staff gets ID practice and no one falls through the cracks.

Any time an ID is in question, Security should be instructed to hold onto the ID and wait for Police verification.  If the person does not wait for this compliance, the ID in question must be given to a Manager, who will then hand it over to the police, that same night if possible.

Take your time checking IDs and if you don’t feel comfortable accepting one…DON’T!!!

Until next time….

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