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Restaurant to try new tactic in war on underage drinkers: Lawsuits

In a city full of college students, in a world full of increasingly realistic fake licenses, restaurants and bars face a never ending battle to keep the pre-21 set from getting drinks. A Japanese restaurant on Newbury Street vows to try a new solution: Suing the families of the four teens who got it hauled before the Boston Licensing Board for serving underage drinkers.

Itadaki, 267-269 Newbury St., got caught May 1 when a detective from the BPD licensing board arrived for a random inspection and promptly found a table of four women who looked too young to drink the Bud Lights in front of them, despite driver's licenses from Rhode Island and Connecticut that put their ages at 21. In fact, Sgt. Det. Robert Mulvey said, all four of their IDs were fake, and he wrote a citation to the restaurant for serving them.

Itadaki's attorney, Karen Simao, told the Boston Licensing Board this morning the restaurant is no longer willing to just accept the damage to its business and reputation caused by pre-21 drinkers and that it's readying a lawsuit against the families of the four teens for the damage they've caused the restaurant's reputation - and potentially its business, should the board decide Thursday to suspend its license for one or more days.

In addition to possible lawsuits, the four teens also face criminal charges for being minors in possession of alcohol.

Simao and a restaurant co-owner said they are engaged in a never-ending arms race with crafty local teens and the sophisticated purveyors of fake IDs - the four teens presented licenses that even had realistic looking holograms on them.

Since the incident, the restaurant has bought an expensive license scanner - and doubled its efforts to get staff to reject anybody about whom there is the least doubt. They added the server in question was terminated.

"Selling four Bud Lights is not worth being closed for an hour, much less four days," Simao said.

Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini, who noted the restaurant got a three-day suspension in December for a similar incident last year, said it might be time for the restaurant to follow state regulations, which specify that the only truly acceptable IDs are Massachusetts licenses or alcohol IDs, passports and US military IDs.

Itadaki said following that to the letter could put it out of business altogether - estimating roughly half its business on the tourist-heavy street comes from people from out of state or out of the country.

The board decides Thursday what action, if any, to take about both this incident and an incident four days later in which a rear exit was found blocked.

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Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini, who noted the restaurant got a three-day suspension in December for a similar incident last year, said it might be time for the restaurant to follow state regulations, which specify that the only truly acceptable IDs are Massachusetts licenses or alcohol IDs, passports and US military IDs.

Itadaki said following that could put it out of business altogether - estimating roughly half its business on the tourist heavy street comes from people from out of state or out of the country.

Oh my. How is that a serious suggestion?

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... do a crash program of issuing Mass Alcohol IDs to all the high-fliers who will come to the Olympics (if we host them). World Class tourist-friendly _dry_ Olympics....

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according to this law.

On July 30, 2012, the Governor approved Chapter 170 of the Acts of 2012 that amended M.G.L. c.138, §34B

1. As a result, beginning October 29, 2012, alco
holic beverages licensees may reasonably rely on
the following forms of identification for proof of age:
1. A Massachusetts Driver’s License;
2. A Massachusetts Liquor Identification Card;
3. A Massachusetts Identification Card;
4. A Passport Issued by the United States or a government that is officially recognized by the United States;
5. A Passport Card for a Passport issued by the United States; and
6. A Military Identification Card.

I believe the World Cup back in 1994 helped spur the addition of some of the other documents. Note that Green Card holders are SOL (as well as holders of non-military government IDs).

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It seems like green card holders will, by definition, have a passport issued by a government that is officially recognized by the United States, yeah?

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They will, but the Green Card allows them to travel around without it, in most cases. Sorta gives foreign tourists an advantage over the people who went to the trouble of getting a Green Card.

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If you gave an out of state DL and a federal government issued Green Card I can't imagine that any bar would turn you away for insufficient ID.

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She gets paid either way and she wasn't elected. She is at an almost absolute liberty to talk out of her (expletive.) Just as long as she doesn't compare availability of halal food to pizza for Italians.

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between Christine Pulgini and that Murphy clown it is safe to say we should stop electing life long mass. residents.

We need blood from the outside. People who have done work in a world class city (London, LA, Singapore, Zurich...etc).

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funny guy. As a one time resident of 3 unquestionable 'world class' cities, the local political and corruption scandals make Boston seem tame.

And many of the 'professionals' hired at city hall are, in fact, not 'townies'.

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Yeah that lady that brought in from Atlanta to run the T did a GREAT job. (eye roll)

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Well, she did, but was put into an impossible situation, and was pilloried with no help at all from the governor. (no eye roll)

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During my time working for Clarendon Wine in Copley, we turned people away all the time with out-of-state IDs. Usually if it was questionable. An older guy with grey hair walks in with a RI ID? Fine we served him. The law is stupid, probably unconstitutional, but it is there to protect businesses who don't want to get wraped up in a scandal, and is an easy excuse to say "no" to someone. My buddy and I went to a concert at the Orpheum when we were both about 23, and they wouldn't serve him with a PA ID. Then I got yelled at and almost booted for handing him a beer later. Common sense prevailed but he couldn't drink for the rest of the concert.
Really they should go after those passing off the fake IDs. Some are blatent fakes, but I have seen some really good ones coming out of China in the past few years. Unless you had a scanner you'd never know, and even those can probably be gone around. I was a college kid once. I had a fake ID, several in fact. Some got taken. Never got arrested but it is a risk one takes. Suffer the consequences. Each one I lost was $100 down the drain.
Establishments that knowingly serve underagers should have to be busted through investigation and spot checks, as we see in this case. However, I think an establishment that doesn't have scanners, or if the fakes were very hard to spot, they should have legal recourse to claim damages on a case by case basis. Hey, if they wanna put lawyers to work so be it, law students are hurtin for jobs these days...

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but as of the late 1980s, some Pennsylvania licenses were non-photo, and said "VALID WITHOUT PHOTO" in the space where the photo would usually be. I think they did this to accommodate people who were away from the state attending college or on military duty, but I'm not sure. New Jersey continued its option for a nonphoto license into the 1990s. I can see a bar not wanting to accept a nonphoto license.

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I had one of these from RI in 2006 when I was finishing up school in CO. I didn't even bother trying to use it and just showed my expired RI license until I got back and had time to get a new one with a picture. Surprisingly the only place that ever called me out on the expired license was the Hong Kong in Faneuil Hall.

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The Orpheum incident would have been about 2004-2005. They were real dicks about it. ID had his picture on it, it was clearly him, nad he was 23 at the time. Just stone-walled him.

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You mean she actually had the temerity to suggest that Itadaki follow a state regulation? Shocking!

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... (such as out-of-state drivers licenses), it only specifies IDs that are "safe harbors" -- but I assume that, even with the items on the "approved" list, a facility fooled by a convincing fake would still be subject to punishment of some sort. In any event, do you seriously suggest that bars and licensed restaurants refuse to serve all out-of-state customers?

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not its rightful interpretation. Even Dewey Cheetam & Howe would advise adopting the state rule to avoid a potential catastrophic lawsuit. The restaurant lobby must have been asleep at the switch.

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It isn't per se silly to say that "if you rely on these kinds of IDs, you are reasonably safe". However, the provision does not spell out what level of caution is required when accepting other IDs which _should_ also be adequate (barring fraud). Right now, the law is being applied as if one is absolutely liable (not negligent, or grossly negligent or reckless) whenever one serves someone who turns out to be underage. It is not clear to me that even serving persons with the specified forms of ID would get a place off the hook, if the IDs were fake but good enough to fool the bar/restaurant staff.

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addresses this matter is not a serious suggestion? I believe your issue is with the legislature and the restaurant lobby.

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They actually changed the law back in 2012, so that now Mass state ID cards are also valid for the purchase of alcohol. Prior to that change they were not, which was truly silly.

Acceptable forms of ID are now:

As a result, beginning October 29, 2012, alcoholic beverages licensees may reasonably rely on the following forms of identification for proof of age:

A Massachusetts Driver’s License;
A Massachusetts Liquor Identification Card;
A Massachusetts Identification Card;
A Passport Issued by the United States or a government that is officially recognized by the United States;
A Passport Card for a Passport issued by the United States; and
A Military Identification Card.

http://www.mass.gov/abcc/pdf/idlawchange_with_id_pix.pdf

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Makes me wonder why the Liquor ID still exists then. It always struck me as beyond absurd that one ID that showed your picture and date of birth was not valid for purchasing alcohol, but another ID that showed your picture and date of birth and in fact was 99.9% identical to the other one except for the word "liquor" on it was valid.

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I had one in college, while I retained my out-of-state driving license for driving.

The reason Mass ID should work is that some people in MA don't drive yet or ever (blind), but still need an ID. That ID takes the same documentation as a license.

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Yes, the Mass. ID has the same proof-of-residency requirements as the driver's license, and is pretty useful when kids don't start driving until well beyond high school. We saw that our nephew got one so he doesn't need to use his passport for ID on domestic flights, etc. (I didn't know about the liquor ID, but it makes sense that it exist for those who don't meet the residency requirement.)

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About damn time. I love this. God forbid that criminals get punished for committing fraud. Go live in France or Canada or England or Ireland if you want to drink at 19. I am sick and tired of bars getting in all the trouble for this. Whatever happened to "fool me once, shame on you?" A $2.67/hour waitress is supposed to be the gatekeeper of spotting fraudulent ID's? Come on now.

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Agreed. I support any measure that punishes shithead entitled college kid tourists from out of state on their foolishness. First they come here on their parents dime and take housing options away from people with actual jobs so they can party and trash the neighbourhood, then they complain how our city is not New York or LA, then they complain about residents and how they're so much better than us, then they get our local businesses in trouble, then they pack up and leave.

Throw the book at em, then watch the sub 3.0GPA attendance at BU and Suffolk drop because we're no longer a "party city" for stupid 18-20 year olds. Boston should not be the surrogate parent for CT/NY/NJ's Gen crY trash.

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Boston would not be the city it is, and the jobs would not exist, if it weren't for all the colleges.

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Intelligent, responsible college students help the city. Kids who use their college experience to play vacay from mommy and daddy and pick Boston because "dude boondock saints is the best movie ever for the win bro" do nothing but litter it.

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The way this law is enforced is bollix. If the state wants to hold a restaurant liable for serving an underage adult with an excellent phony license, then the state can put a state employee in every joint licensed to sell, and he can check the damn IDs. Otherwise, the most it should require is for the place to check IDs & not serve anyone who has a questionable one.

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... absolute liability -- not the more normal negligence standard.

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Before restaurant's were held to be responsible, many of them were very casual about interpreting that young drinkers were actually of age. When the drinking age was 18, there were many places that I, at age 16 could drink in.

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In the last two years of high school if we had a field trip in town and they dropped us off a Quincy Market for lunch we used to pop over to The Midnight Court and have a sandwich and a couple of pints of Guinness.

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These "teenagers", if they're college students, are most likely over the age of 18, the age of legal majority in this here Commonwealth. They're not under their parents' control (or at least not under their micromanagement). Come on, what is a parent in Akron OH supposed to do if their kid in Boston decides to try and get served in a bar?

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Their "kid" is a legal adult. They can't be held responsible. Unless of course we want to push childhood up to age 25 or 30.

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Being 18 doesn't make one an adult, even in the eyes of the law. Most of these "adults" are dependents on their parents' tax returns and in fact, are dependent in every other way. FERPA (which governs privacy for college students) allows parents of dependent students even those over 18 access to educational information. Even the ACA allows an "adult" up to 26 to be on his/her parents' health insurance policy. Heck, I'll bet the money they paid for those Buds with and the car the drove to Boston in was their parents! Liquor laws aside, there is no definitive line between childhood and adulthood.

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They are legally adults. The fact that they can be treated as dependents for certain specific purposes does not change this fact.

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How can the families possibly be on the hook for this?

In any case, the 21 age is a farce, and I say this as someone in their mid 30's. Someday maybe this country will swing toward more personal freedom (and less litigation) and we'll be able to have some of the nice things that Europeans can have but we're prohibited from.

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The families should be on the hook because they are the ones that export their bratty kids to Boston area colleges every year. All the colleges in Boston don't make it the Athens of America, it makes it an adult day care for the entitled brats of the world and a true pain for the tax paying city residents.

Though I do agree 21 is a joke. At 18 you can legally die for your country, vote, buy a house, get married, etc but can't have a beer?

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18 is the age of majority. Period.

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It would need to be proven that someone else paid for the drink. How can that be done? Even if it can be proven that the money for that drink came from someone else, how can that person be held responsible? If I give you a hammer for your birthday and you beat someone with it, am I responsible? Sounds ridiculous to me.

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Then shoot for a settlement because it is cheaper for the family than trying to defend themselves in court.

But if the family provided the funds in the first place,I would say they are somewhat culpable.

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Drinking and driving is already a problem for the 21 and over set... allowing teenagers to legally drink will only make it worse.

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When I get promoted to alcohol boss, the law allow restaurants/bars without parking lots to serve people under 21.

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was that day's equivalent of "security theater". It was politicians Looking Like They're Doing Something. So they picked a politically-impotent group of people and touted it as a solution to the problem.

Mostly, it was baby boomers who wanted the age lowered when they were kids so they could party, and then wanted the age raised again when they were old enough to have kids who could go and drink. "For me but not for thee."

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The students are financially responsible as adults for the restaurant's financial losses, but can't drink like adults. This is exactly the "responsibility without privilege" scenario that 16-20 year olds are in these days, that I've been pointing out for years.

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The students are financially responsible as adults for the restaurant's financial losses, but can't drink like adults.

But they attempted to "drink like adults", and in some cases were probably successful. They claimed the privilege fraudulently; now they have to be responsible for that fraudulent claim.

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The fines for getting caught serving under age drinkers are astronomical. Not only do you have to pay an attorney at $400-$500 an hour to represent you, you likely face getting shut down for several days. That can run into the 10s of thousands in lost sales.

I say sue the hell out of the families. If somebody knowingly used a fake ID and gets caught, then the onus should be on them. Not a server who is not a forensic expert in fake identification.

Bar owners are not police. But they are increasingly being asked to do detective work. And b.eing forced to pay if they don't.

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If you're going to sue parents for what their kids do - a concept that's somewhat troubling to me, but put that aside for a moment - let's save some time and free the courts up a bit. When underage drinkers are caught, leave the bars and restaurants out of it entirely (unless it's alleged that they aren't checking IDs at all, or something similar for which they could be held responsible) and have The Commonwealth fine the kids and/or parents directly.

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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If a bar put up a reasonable attempt to keep out minors.

The problem is, there is no money in it. Its all about revenue for the city and state. If the ABCC shuts you down, they will take money in lieu of suspension equal to x amount of sales.

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The City cannot fine a restaurant, so there's no monetary incentive for them involved. Only the ABCC can accept a fine in lieu of a suspension.

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IDs are Massachusetts licenses or alcohol IDs

For those unaware, if you live in MA and don't drive there are TWO possible forms of IDs you can get, both issued by the RMV. One is a "liquor" ID and the other is a standard non-driver identification card. They look the same. You need to go through the same process to get both of them. They are both just as "real" or "fake" as a drivers license.

BUT, according to the law you can ONLY buy booze with the liquor one. Supposedly this dates back to when the non-drivers version didn't have a photo. But why should MA update the laws when it can inconvenience people by making them buy and carry two forms of ID as a punishment for not driving?

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Most of the parents of underage drinkers who go to Newbury Street bars and restaurants don't even live in Massachusetts. Or, not even in the United States for that matter. It may be a plus for the restaurant, however, because if you have the right lawyer, the deep-pocketed defendant's parents may just pay up immediately. After all, just a drop in the bucket will make the bad monster go away from my innocent, sweet, honor student child who dream of working at Google after he graduates from a prestigious Boston ivy league school!

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I will never understand why the licensing board thinks that bouncers and waitstaff should be the ones responsible for the detective work needed to track down fake IDs. If they're too strict, they'll drive away business from over-21-people with out-of-state licenses (probably a third of the people out drinking). If they're too lax, and don't buy a multi-thousand-dollar scanner and a subscription to a service, and pay to train their employees, they risk getting shut down by the board. It's lose-lose. Meanwhile, why not just have the vice cops focus on fining or arresting the idiots who don't memorize the ZIP code on their fakes?

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If they're too strict, they'll drive away business from over-21-people with out-of-state licenses (probably a third of the people out drinking).

That seems exactly what they hope to do. The licensing board doesn't care about business, employees, or owners. People can be out of work and locals unhappy for all they care. They work for the state.

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Love it! Sue the brats and embarrass their parents for raising spoiled children. It's about time someone holds these entitled nitwits accountable for their actions. If 19yr college students want to drink at a bar, it's only a 5 hour bus ride north to Montreal.

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Yawwwwwnnnn!

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Okay, you're all thinking it, so I'll say it.

While I agree with a lot of what has been said here (e.g., the notion of servers as gatekeepers is silly, etc.), here is what would put up the red flag for me.

You're in a Japanese restaurant on Newbury St. A couple of people who look like they might be too young to legally be drinking come in and order Bud Lights.

Cripes, kids, at least order a Kirin Ichiban (only a modest upgrade).

Two more things:

1) the statement about selling 4 Bud Lights is not worth closing for an hour, much less 4 days is the understatement of the year; and

2) the blocked rear egress is a much more serious violation IMHO. I'd hit 'em for that before the Bud Light ridiculousness.

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Just have to say this: the Kirin Ichiban you drink in the US is not from Japan- it's made at the Budweiser factory in Los Angeles. For the most part, large Japanese beer manufacturers don't export- they just make it locally in the US and Canada to save on trans-Pacific shipping costs. Same goes for Asahi and Sapporo. So actually, the Bud Light the girls were drinking might as well have been Kirin Ichiban because it was made in the same place!

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Could the restaurant have avoided the issue if it had purchased one of the scanners before this happened? Seems to me that if I owned a restaurant in Boston, I would definitely invest in one of those.

I have no problem with the restaurant suing the families. Whether or not the owner will be successful in that suit is another question.

Am I the only person who, if I had been snagged by the cops with a fake ID, would have been home sitting on the couch awaiting my transfer to Local State U as a commuter student? There would have been no way that I would have emerged from that situation without serious repercussions. Maybe that's why I wasn't brave enough to have one....

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Am I the only person who, if I had been snagged by the cops with a fake ID, would have been home sitting on the couch awaiting my transfer to Local State U as a commuter student?

Yes you are. According to the armchair commenters in this thread, the only underage students ever who drink illegally are trust-fundies with rich and/or foreign parents.

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Spoiled brats, crybabies, the kind of people who really bring down the tone of the neighborhood. Not like all the fine upstanding townies who are such a pleasure to be around.

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That's because I was paying the bills, and I was a legal adult.

Parents are not entitled to notification about such things.

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They might have noticed the court summons when they were mailed to the house.

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What is wrong with our culture that eighteen year olds are too immature to have a drink? Are we just puritans, or are we churning our misfits? What are Greece and Germany (and many other countries) doing that results in more mature young adults?

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Most 21 year olds are too immature to drink.

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... are too "immature" to drink responsibly. We should ban alcohol entirely!

Whoops, that's been tried and was a major "fail".

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Yeah, no. Point is, the first few years of legal drinking for most are irresponsible regardless of what the age is. It's another "look what I can do now" thing.

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Really. I hope you realize that our drinking laws are the rival of those in Islamic countries and nowhere else!

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There's plenty of stupid drinking behavior goes on there.

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At least in my experience, though, Germany has a different drinking culture than the US. You're going to have one, maybe two beers with your meal. Serious drinking outside of meal times is pretty rare. Yeah, go to the Biergarten, but you have a beer before you sit down to eat. Alcohol consumption is much more connected to food consumption in Germany than it is here.

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... is one liter. ;-)

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I worked as a teller during undergrad at bank on a local campus. it takes time and experience to be able to recognize and feel the difference between fake IDs. I can't blame the restaurant for their staff being unable to spot them. The bank where I worked was a large nationwide bank and we didn't have scanners. We had a UV light, a guide book and daylight and the guidebook changed every year. I can't imagine trying to examine all the security features at night to make sure the ID is legit. I think the suing of the students and families is an ok tactic by the restaurant, make kids think twice about doing something like this again. Having the restaurant closed for a few days affects the people who work there. I don't see anyone paying their bills while they're unemployed during that time. What these girls did is not a victimless crime if the restaurant closes and people can't make a living. That being said I wish they'd lower the age to what the rest of the world accepts as standard. It would solve a lot of problems.

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The court will not be able to find against the teens when it's pointed out that a Bud Light has less alcohol than an O'Douls.

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Not all underage drinking in restaurants occurs with fake IDs. Some young people get IDs from older siblings and friends...which would pass a scanner, I think.

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As in: Detective asks the kid for her Zip code and she gives hers, not the one listed on her sister's driver's license. Busted.

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Testing telomeres for length? (Look it up, kids)

If they look like the photo and the ID is real, then the store has done its job in this arms race against Bud Light.

I mean they could take them out back and waterboard them (with Bud Light) to get them to confess to their real age...oh wait, no they can't. The door was blocked.

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The person checking doesn't even need to know what their appropriate sign is, if there is hesitation/confusion you know it's not theirs. Smart underage drinkers would know to learn this too.

I had a fake college ID from my school in Washington so everything was the same but the year of birth was pushed back by 3, I had a voter's registration card that I had used ink eradicator to erase everything printed on it and then reprinted it with all of the same information except the matching year to the fake.

I think they would be very unlikely to get you anywhere today, but back then I got into plenty of places with them. I got turned down at places too but they could only tell me it wasn't good enough ID so they wouldn't be confiscated. A lot of times success would depend on how I'd play it off when questioned.

One memorable incident I was when I was with two friends who were just over 21 while I was still just under by a few months and handed them to a doorman at a total dive bar. He asked where my license was and I told him I didn't drive. He then said, "Hold on, just let me check with the cop" which caused my friends to have a look of panic on their faces which fortunately wasn't noticed. So they had a Boston cop on detail in the bar who then came out with my two fake IDs in hand and the following conversation occurred.

Cop: Where's your license?
Me: Like I told him, I don't drive.
Cop: Where do you live.
Me: The address that's on there in DC.
Cop: What're you doing here?
Me: I grew up here, I'm just back visiting friends.

He turned to the doorman as he gave me my IDs back, shrugged and told him I was all set.

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Either way you slice it, Mass is the only place with this problem. Its the only place where my out of state (over 30) friends have a hard time getting served. Its the only place where my almost 40 year old ass is triple ID checked. Its insane. But we're way ready for the Olympics right?

ps, Suing the family is absolute insanity. How will that ever get anywhere in court?

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The lawsuit would stand in court b/c the sanction for the restaurant is to close for 3-7 days. The restaurant would loose ~$30-50K by closing during that time. It was not their fault that the kids used fake IDs to get alcohol since it was the kids that initiated everything. Since the kids are underage then who is responsible? It would be the parents, who are the legal guardians of the kids until the kids attain "legal age". That's how I understand the grounds for the lawsuit, which in my view makes sense.

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... but the US government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to pressure Massachusetts (and all the other states) into forbidding these adults (able to serve in the mikitary and to vote) from buying alcohol. Absent special circumstances (such as guardianship due to mental incompetency -- or some contractual arrangement), parents are not responsible for the actions of their adult offspring.

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