Alcohol sellers want cover to accept out-of-state licenses

The Republican reports that wine and alcohol sellers are pushing for a change in state law that would allow them legal protection if they accept out-of-state licenses.

“If someone’s 21, has ID from another state that’s legal, we should legally be able to take it and not have to say ‘I’m sorry I can’t take that ID’ because we are not afforded same protection as if we took Massachusetts ID and relied on that for identification,” said Ben Weiner, owner of Sav-Mor Liquors, which has four stores around greater Boston.

Liquor sellers have been advocating for the change for years. Under current law, if a store accidentally sells alcohol to a minor, the owner has a defense if the store relied on a Massachusetts license as proof of age. But the store can be penalized if employees relied on an out-of-state license that is fake.

Steven Rubin, owner of Huntington Wines and Liquors, which sells alcohol near Northeastern University in Boston, said a lot of supermarkets do not accept out-of-state licenses, while larger independent stores use a scanner to verify that a license is legitimate. His store accepts out-of-state licenses only with two backup picture IDs.

“We turn away $3,500 to $4,000 in sales, because we’re afraid to take out-of-state licenses,” Rubin said.

“We turn away $3,500 to $4,000 in sales, because we’re afraid to take out of state licenses.”
Frank Anzalotti, executive director of the West Springfield-based Massachusetts Package Stores Association, said even airline security accepts licenses from around the country. “We just don’t understand why with all the bells and whistles in place and security available that a license from another state can’t be used as proof of age for purchasing alcohol, when it can be used every other reason,” Anzalotti said.

Several bills pending before the Legislature would make it easier for package stores to accept out-of-state licenses. State Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, R-North Attleborough, would protect sellers from a penalty if they rely on an out-of-state license that they have validated using a magnetic identification card reader machine – a type of scanner that verifies if a license is legitimate. Other bills introduced by State Rep. Paul McMurtry, D-Dedham, State Sen. James Welch, D-West Springfield, and State Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, would simply allow sellers to rely on out-of-state licenses as proof of age to avoid a penalty.

The issue is particularly important for stores located at state borders or in areas that attract tourists.

State Sen. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, which is considering the bills, said the committee is just beginning to gather information. “It’s trying to figure out a way we can strike a balance and ensure that we are preventing underage drinking but at the same time allowing our retailers to be able to make legal sales of alcohol and also allow for legal admission into clubs and bars and restaurants,” L’Italien said.

Committee member State Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, said he recognizes that allowing sellers to accept out of state licenses is important for businesses trying to attract tourists. But he also wants to make sure the scanning technology is in place to allow businesses to distinguish between real and fake identification cards. “I’ve seen fake IDs that are unbelievable,” Howitt said. “You would never know that they are fake.”

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