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Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Out-of-state ID means no service in Massachusetts

Wikimedia Commons

A 26-year-old man with a fully grown beard walks in to a bar in Beverly with a group of his similarly-aged friends. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but this punch-line isn’t funny. It ends with the man being denied entrance to the bar because he’s from New York. Even though he had other forms of identification, the man was singled out from his group of friends. They all got into the bar to enjoy a beer because they all had Massachusetts driver’s licenses.

“We’re not allowed to accept out-of-state IDs anymore,” the bouncer had told him. “It’s just our policy. I’m sorry man.”

This situation is happening all over Massachusetts. According to a review on, the Moan & Dove of Amherst has been known to not accept out-of-state IDs.

Selina L. wrote on the site, “I’m from NY, and I’ve been refused service for having an out-of-state ID (despite having my backup school ID, and the fact that I’d been there before)… It’s just cruel to face that awesome selection only to be turned away on a technicality.” She still gave the bar five stars, but being refused service was obviously an annoyance.

The frustration that comes with having an out-of-state ID in Massachusetts has only been increasing. Most towns have actual legislation that puts restaurants and bars at risk if they decide to accept the IDs, and most don’t want to take the chance.

For example, in 2008, Framingham updated its alcohol policy so that out-of-state driver’s licenses would no longer be accepted as valid proof of age. That means that no matter how many other forms of identification someone might have, if they don’t have another one with their age on it, they can’t be let into the bar.

Some town officials and business owners found the policy change more harmful than helpful because it hurts tourism and business practices. In the WickedLocal Framingham article “Out-of-state IDs no good at Framingham bars,” one business owner stated, “I would never have a conference in Framingham under these rules.” Having the waiter ask your 35-year-old client for another form of identification could make your business dinner fairly awkward.

Why are so many towns and restaurants implementing this practice? The main reason for this restriction comes from the fact that out-of-state IDs are easier to fake. Bouncers can spot Massachusetts fake IDs with no problem, but they might not be as familiar with a California state driver’s license. This results in more minors paying to get fake IDs from different states so they can drink.

In college towns with plenty of minors, this can be a huge problem. Bars are held liable for serving to underage students. If they’re caught serving minors, the owners can be fined, imprisoned or stripped of their liquor license. This risk has resulted in some towns turning to the easy solution: stop accepting out-of-state identification.

However, there are consequences to this cut-and-dry tactic. It inconveniences many people, and some might even say it’s a form of discrimination. If a bar decides not to accept out-of-state IDs, they legally have to do it across the board. This means a New York man sporting a fully grown beard has to be denied in the same way that the barely-looks-18 girl with the Minnesota state license is denied. In other words, if you’re not from Massachusetts, you’re not welcome to enjoy a refreshing alcoholic beverage at certain bars.

It doesn’t help that Massachusetts is nestled right in the middle of New England. The states are small and extremely close together – according to a Google Maps experiment, you can hit all six states in New England in about six hours – making these restricting policies more of an annoyance than they would be in the middle of the country, or even farther south.

States nestled so closely together should not be subjected to out-of-state identification discrimination. Bouncers should be trained to take the extra time and ensure that the Connecticut or New Hampshire driver’s license is valid, rather than just turn them away.

One could argue that someone from out-of-state should carry another form of ID to avoid this situation. However, your state driver’s license is supposed to be a perfectly valid form of identification. The amount of time and effort that is spent going to the RMV to obtain your legal form of ID should result in the stress-free reward of drinking a Mojito.

It’s inconsistent. If you’re driving in Massachusetts and you’re pulled over, the police officer is not going to deny you from driving if you have an out-of-state ID. Women shouldn’t have to worry about fitting their passport in their purse and men shouldn’t need to shove it in their pocket just because they’re from Vermont. It is the restaurant’s responsibility to buy a proper ID scanner that is capable of checking out-of-state licenses and keeping minors out of their bar.

Emily Mias is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at


6 Responses to “Out-of-state ID means no service in Massachusetts”
  1. alum says:

    I agree that it seems sill to require a Mass ID. However, this is how it’s been for many years. As much as it sucks to give Mass any more $, there is a solution throught the Mass RMV:

    Massachusetts ID Card/Liquor ID Card Fees
    Massachusetts ID card: $25 (good for five years)Massachusetts Liquor ID Card: $25 (good for five years). Replacement for lost or stolen ID card: $25

    $25 for five years of no hassles isn’t too bad. Ought to get most folks thru college.

  2. N. says:

    alum has a good point. but i also don’t understand why these bars don’t get proper scanners. it seems that especially in a town like amherst, they are turning away a lot of perfectly good customers for no real reason other than their own disorganizedness. kinda dumb and not in their interests.

  3. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    My understanding is that — unlike a lot of other states — the Mass RMV will only issue those IDs to state residents. In other words, those who don’t have a drivers’ license.

    Now there is one other little aspect to this known as the “full faith & credit” clause of the US Constitution — and much as other states have to accept the legitimacy of Mass gay marriages, Massachusetts has to accept the legitimacy of their IDs — and I really would like to see someone take this issue into US District Court under 46 USC 1983 — that would be interesting….

  4. Ash says:

    the scanners at bars don’t work either. Someone should be investigating that. I just renewed my RI license in June right before my 28th birthday. I have not had a problem at a Foxboro bar before my old License scanned with no problems. I use my new license I got in the mail 3 weeks ago and it would not scan. The bar and the Foxboro police tried to tell me it was fake and asked for another ID. The bounce told me I could either leave or have the police run the ID. I said go ahead run it, I’m not leaving I just got that in the mail. Then the Foxboro cop gave me a hard time and i was appalled that he asked “if I run this ID will it come back real?”. no I asked the police to get involved so I could be sent home or arrested because it’s fake. I am no happy with the bar or the police, and more so with the DMV for giving me an ID that isn’t scanning.

  5. David T. says:

    Alcohol laws are strictly state controlled, by the Constitutional amendment that repealed prohibition. Full faith and credit does not apply. The commerce clause limits states to some extent but not with regard to IDs. Highway funds are used to force states to apply the 21-year drinking age but not to force them to accept out-of-state ID. Discrimination laws only apply to protected classes, like race, and not to out-of-state residents.

    Out-of-state residents can get a “Liquor ID card” for $25 from the Registry of Motor Vehicles with proper supporting ID, or they can use a Passport or U.S. Passport card. Out-of-state licenses give no legal protection at all to the establishment, whether they’re scanned or not, so they often refuse them.

    I recommend using the passport, if available (booklet, not card). Note, however, that each establishment can refuse service at its discretion, so it’s best to research that establishment’s policies before arriving with a group, if possible.

    It’s a pain, for sure, but fake IDs are very common among out-of-state students. It’s my understanding that Maine and Texas both require in-state ID, rejecting even passports. Also, passports are no good in California because they lack a physical description (i.e., height and weight). So Massachusetts isn’t unique in being unreasonable about proof of age.

  6. Greg says:

    Happening to me right now. But I’m from Florida. It is unreasonable to offer a business card, 3 credit cards, a license, an insurance card, a costco card, and not to mention the money inside as a gratuity for it all and be turned down as if I carry a fake wallet around with me constantly. Well I guess sitting at her busy bar sucking down waters during a bruins game and asking for refills constantly will help her sleep at night, knowing she didn’t do the unethical, immoral thing by serving someone who looks 30 a cold refreshing draft. Good thing I am moving here in 5 months I can be apart of the cool club.

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