Disputed ID law upheld by board

Those 80-year-old gentlemen and silver-haired grandmothers forced to show identification with every alcohol purchase due to a controversial and, some say, absurd Annapolis regulation, will have to keep flashing their driver's licenses for at least another year.

Saying it wants to measure how well the law is curbing underage drinking, the city's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted 4-1 yesterday not to rescind the 7-month-old liquor regulation. It requires all customers - even those obviously older than 21 - to show identification when buying alcohol at city liquor stores.


The decision comes four months after the city council voted unanimously to ask the board to reconsider the regulation that had some customers in a huff and which the council described as an "onerous government overreach." Stores that fail to comply face a maximum penalty of $1,000 or revocation of license.

Yesterday, liquor board members described the council's resolution as "belated" and said it was difficult to repeal the law because they heard little opposition, especially from store owners. At a public hearing last month, nine people turned out, and they were in disagreement.


"I personally was a little bit dismayed by the lack of public outcry when the opportunity was made at city council and [liquor board] hearings," said Valerie K. Miller, liquor board chairwoman. Board member Leonard Berman, the lone dissenter, described the regulation as "discriminatory" since it applies only to the city's 17 liquor stores - not restaurants or bars.

"There are about 80 licensees who are not required to card," he said adding that no convincing evidence exists that the regulation has reduced underage drinking.

The law was the brainchild of Bay Ridge Wine and Spirits' owner, Charles Ferrar, who suggested it while serving on an ad hoc committee with other licensees and liquor board members two years ago.

After being netted in a police sting for not carding an undercover police cadet, Ferrar, 58, said he was frustrated by what he felt was an imbalance in enforcement: Liquor store owners were fined, while minors and clerks got off easy.

"It is a government overreach," he said, "but if [minors] see me carding a 60-year-old, they know I'm going to card a 20-year-old." He said he has caught some minors who were forced to produce identification.

"They looked older, and it shocked me," he said. Ferrar said he's encountered 15 to 20 minors in the past six months.

But other storeowners say the regulation has produced a headache. "It's discouraging, and it's not right," said Hillard Donner, 77, owner of Mills Wine & Spirit Mart, whose City Dock store attracts throngs of boaters and tourists on Main Street. "What right do I have to ask a 60-year old woman for ID?"

He said the law is crippling his business, since many of his casually attired yachting clientele often leave their ID on their boats and, once carded, don't come back.


"It's just a terrible regulation," said Donner, who estimated that law has cost him an 8 percent to 10 percent drop in sales.

Donner also said some elderly residents are reluctant to show identification, such as driver's licenses, that carries their addresses. A 75-year-old refused to show ID because she lived alone. "They say, 'I've never heard of such a thing,'" he said.