Out-of-state ID means no service in Massachusetts

By Emily Mias

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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 Yelp.com, 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 [email protected]