Commentary: Firing staff who serve underage sends a message

It really isn't hard for a bartender or server to figure out if a patron can legally be served an alcoholic beverage.

You ask for an ID, and if it's vertical, that customer is not 21 and you can't sell him or her a drink. It's that's cut and dry. No if, ands or buts. If it's horizontal, then you're OK, they're 21.


I guess you could make the argument that someone going out either on or just after their 21st birthday hasn't gotten their ID changed yet. But that's the prerogative of the business if it wants to serve that customer who really is 21.

But servers at numerous bars, restaurants and liquor stores are regularly caught in compliance tests. Some of them don't even bother to ask for an ID, which is absolutely unacceptable. And not reading it right, not realizing that vertical means not 21, 99 percent of the time, is inexcusable.


On Nov. 21, Beards Hill Plaza Liquors and Carsins Run Grill in Aberdeen, Pat's Pizzeria in Edgewood and Open Door Café were all fined $1,000 for selling alcohol to a minor during a compliance test Sept. 27. The fine for Sequoia Mountain Branch Golf Course in Joppa was $2,000, higher because it has had more than one violation within five years.

Then on Nov. 28, Madonna Seafood in Norrisville was fined $500 for serving a minor.

That's six people who couldn't recognize that a vertical license meant the person presenting it wasn't 21.

It's long been up to the liquor licensees to punish the person who sold the alcohol to the underage person, and in a couple of these instances the punishment was harsh: termination.

At Beards Hill Liquors, both the employee who served the minor and the store manager responsible for hiring and training employees were fired. So was the bartender at Mountain Branch, who was "too busy watching a Ravens game" to pay attention to the regulations.

What better message is there to send to the rest of the staff that carding people buying alcohol is important?

In my years of covering the liquor board, I often heard that there are no consequences for the person who does the serving.

While it's true the licensees are the ones who get hit with liquor board penalties, the licensees or management can certainly punish the server, as they did at Beards Hill and Mountain Branch.


Mountain Branch went a step further and implemented a bonus program for servers who pass a compliance test. Maybe other establishments should follow suit.

Perhaps they should also follow suit and fire their employees who serve a minor. If so many people are threatened by the prospect of losing their jobs, maybe they'll be more apt to ask for ID any time, all the time.

That's not necessarily a bad thing.