Saturday, November 08, 2014

DC Club owner arrested for "over enforcing" policy intended to prevent underage drinking in his bar

A bizarre case in Washington DC shows the problems that businesses serving alcohol (especially clubs and discos) have because of the downstream liability risk for inadvertently serving underage people (under 21).
A news story by Keith Alexander in the Washington Post Nov. 7, 2014 relates how Marc Barnes, owner of The Park in downtown Washington, was arrested for “theft” or “destruction” of property after he had his employees shred what he believed to be a fake ID of a customer who, to complicate matters now further given current events, comes from Liberia.  The detailed story is here.    An important part of the story seems to be that he believes that an underage customer tried to use the original customer’s id illegally.

The club has a policy of shredding or confiscating documents it believes to be fake.  It’s not clear if this is legal, or if the practice is widespread.

However the owner was sued a number of years ago after a customer caused a serious auto accident after drinking.

Doormen of clubs have become stricter in recent years about admitting patrons whom they already believe may be intoxicated (despite the “pub crawls” in Arlington on Halloween).  On a  few occasions, I have been denied admission based on my hip-related gait (I believe) when a doorman thought I had alcohol when in fact I did not.

It’s not clear that gay clubs have had any unusual issues.  But I do know, from my days of substitute teaching, that I have seen people under 21 in bars (on regular nights) on a couple of occasions;  the clubs will not be named.
Some clubs, especially in NYC, are now scanning bar codes on identifying documents, which could enhance security but also raise other issues (like possible contact tracing of epidemics).  
Fake-id’s have been used in movie or television plots, as in a critical episode of “Everwood” with the character Ephram a few years ago.

In 2012, Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper criticized reporters for asking a “clown question”, as to whether he would drink (when still under 21) after playing in a game in Toronto, where it would have been legal (but probably against MLB policy).  

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