Ask The Salty Waitress: The Bartender Refused To Accept My ID

Hi Salty, Recently I was at a restaurant/bar out of state and decided to get a drink while we waited for the table. When the bartender asked for my ID he took an unusually long time examining it before asking if I had any other forms of ID, since the one I offered (my drivers license) did not "look real." Mind you, I'm 27 and long past the point of needing a fake ID. I offered up credit cards and we tried explaining that maybe my out of state ID looked a little different, but no dice, he refused to serve me. I spoke to the manager who, after examining my ID himself advised me to go the bar on the upper floor where they would definitely serve me. I got my drink in the end, but the whole experience left a bitter taste. My boyfriend tried to reassure me by saying that I just look young and maybe that's a compliment, but it was really just embarrassing. On the off chance that this happens again, is there any recourse if a bartender flat out refuses to serve you, even when your ID is completely legal?

Thanks,Carded Beyond A Reasonable Doubt

Dear Carded,

This bartender sounds like a dummy who wasn't trained properly. It's right of him to be cautious with out-of-state IDs—restaurants can get in hot water or even lose their liquor licenses for serving underage kids. You weren't trying to use a vertical ID, were you? I know a lot of bars just flat-out don't accept those because they're a liability. And I assume you weren't already intoxicated? That's the only other reason I could come up with as to why he'd give you a tough time. Barring those though, the Spanish Inquisition wasn't necessary. Your drink was free, right? Tell me your drink was free.

There's the plain fact that your ID was valid and you had plenty of other cards in your wallet to back that up. I know some bars don't care whether you have credit cards in your name, because those typically don't have photos on them. You know what I've heard works as backup in a pinch sometimes? A Costco card, because those have photos.

But really, you shouldn't have needed to empty your Visa, AmEx, Diner's Club, expired Blockbuster card, and gym membership onto the bar just to get him to accept your completely valid ID. Bars should have an ID validating machine, which scans the barcode on the back of your license and displays a digital readout of the name and address, which the bar can use to make sure you haven't altered the ID in any way, or to make sure it's not made up entirely.It takes the guesswork out for it for bars, and would have solved the problem without any of this drama.

Bartenders know real IDs are pretty sophisticated these days, with holograms and foil and probably Magic Eye images in some states. My friends say they've been trained on what various states IDs look like, what the tell-tale signs of a fake are, and which states have made changes to their designs recently. They say mostly it's the weight, not the look, of a fake card that gives it away. Your bartender should have been trained properly, too. If he had any doubts, he could have politely told you to wait while he got his manager because that's who looks at out-of-state IDs. Accusing you of having a fake ID is such a bad look.

What could you have done to prevent this annoying incident? Honestly hon, not much. And it's not on you! It's this restaurant's job to train its employees to properly spot fake IDs and not harangue customers of legal drinking age. Whether you look young or not is beside the point, because I looked 25 at 16 and have friends who still look 25 at 40. (Damn them to hell.) Chalk this one up to poor customer service, and take comfort that it's unlikely to happen again.

Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: