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How to Prevent Sales of Alcohol to Minors
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How to Prevent Sales of Alcohol to Minors

03.25.14
Tennessee has really cracked down on sales of liquor to minors.  A second sale of beer, wine or spirits to minors often results in 10 to 14 day suspensions from both the local beer board and the Tennessee ABC. Tennessee imposes strict liability for sales to minors - if the minor was served, the license holder is guilty, regardless of the circumstances.

Sales to minors conjures up Aerosmith's hit 'Walk This Way'

Schoolgirl sweetie with a classy kinda sexy little skirt's climbin' way up her knee.

How do I prevent sales to minors?  Here are some basic tips.

1. Training.  The TABC requires training for all servers.  License holders should seek out the best trainers   There is no reason to send your staff to crummy courses, and there are lots of crummy courses out there.

2. Strict Policies.  We find that firing an employee that sells to a minor sends a strong reminder to staff.  Adopt a written policy about sales to minors and act quickly to terminate an employee that sells to a minor.

3. Reminders. Frequent reminders of carding rules are good, but servers do not seem to remember minimum age dates well.  LED clocks with the dates seem to help, and these are available through many beer wholesalers.

4. Lighting. We old folks know how hard it is to read small print without enough light.  Invincible 20-somethings do not.  Make sure areas where servers card are well lit.  If not, improve lighting, provide good flashlights or require servers to read IDs in a brighter area.

5. Under 21 IDs. For folks that follow the procedures above, we find that the most common mistake is misreading the date on an ID.  Tennessee drivers licenses clearly indicate that a person is under 21.  We have been recommending that license holders consider a policy that requires a secondary check of all IDS with the under 21 mark.  These are the IDs that are leading to most compliance check violations.  The universe of over 21 patrons with an under 21 ID is relatively small.

A simple policy is to require servers to obtain manager approval before serving to anyone presenting an under 21 ID.

Punching in the birth date into the POS system can also help, but only if the server looks at the ID twice - when checking the ID at the table and when punching in the date.  Keep in mind that the server could easily misread the ID twice.

6.  The Hawaii Five-0 Defense. Look the patron in the eye and ask "are you 21?" Although the infamous Five-0 Defense will get you laughed out of criminal court, if an undercover informant lies to the server about his or her age, a beer board or the ABC may reduce the penalty or dismiss the citation.

If you have other successful strategies to prevent sales to minors, please share with us at wcheek@bonelaw.com.

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