Ask LH: Are Liquor Stores Allowed To Refuse Service To Customers With ID?

Ask LH: Are Liquor Stores Allowed To Refuse Service To Customers With ID?

Dear Lifehacker, I look pretty young for my age and was recently asked for ID before entering a liquor store. I didn’t have my purse with me so I just stayed outside. However, my boyfriend, who is 29, was also refused service in case he was buying alcohol for me. Is this allowed? If he has ID, isn’t it discriminatory to refuse service? Thanks, Pissed Off Party Girl

Liquor customer picture from Shutterstock

Dear POPG,

Australian businesses have the right to decide who they do business with. This means they can refuse service for almost any reason, so long as the rules are enforced consistently to all customers and aren’t motivated by discriminatory factors like race or sexual preference.

In the case of liquor stores, anyone suspected of being underage — or of buying for an underage acquaintance — must be refused service. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines and even jail time. In NSW, if a bottle shop gets caught selling alcohol to minors, the responsible parties could receive anything from an on-the-spot fine of $1100 to 12 months in prison.

In other words, the liquor store was simply being responsible (if perhaps a little overzealous.) Next time, remember to bring your ID!


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  • They can also refuse to sell to someone who is known to be taking liquor to a dry community or the person wishing to buy are drunk.

  • Pissed Off Party Girl just wanted to write the phrase, “I look pretty young for my age” for all to see.

  • This is not unusual. It’s store policy at most Dan Murphy’s.

    If you’re stopping past a Dans, leave the minors in the car (unless they’re under like, 13, then that would be downright irresponsible).

    If you are shopping for minors, get them to download the Dan Murphy’s App and give you a list.

    If you are over-age, carry ID. Seriously. tape it to the back of your phone or something.

  • It gets beyond reasonable at times. Adults are supposed to be free to do what they want, but every step of the way people keep putting up roadblock to try and “protect the children”. If an adult wishes to purchase alcohol, and they’re not intoxicated, no-one should be allowed to stop them, doesn’t matter if they have a kid in tow or not. There are far too many assumptions and requirements to prove you’re not guilty in these laws nowadays.

    • Having lived overseas for several years, I’d say this is a response to the fact that the average Australian adult is an idiot…

      I’ve never even bumped into this issue while in Germany, and we have a whole festival devoted to beer…

    • Generally they are. It wasn’t an issue of guilt, however the person asking the question failed the basic test to show that they were in fact an adult. Had they provided ID then it’s unlikely they would have been refused service. Luckily, it would have been simple enough to travel to another bottleshop (seriously, we have no real shortage of these) for her friend to purchase the alcohol or to just go home, get her ID and returned to the store and provided evidence that she was an adult. Most stores very prominently display the notifications that they will refuse service if the customer looks under 25 and has no ID.

      • It is an issue of guilt. The assumption is being made that if someone you are shopping with can’t produce ID, and you can, that you must be purchasing it for them. The transaction should be between the person making the purchase and the merchant, they shouldn’t be judging what they think you might do next, simply by association.

      • No, we’re not. The law says otherwise. I’m sure liquor stores would happily scrap these rules if they were allowed to.

  • The laws in Victoria state that if you purchase alcohol for a minor, you can be fined up to $17,000. As well as the person working who sold it to you. I have refused service to people countless times, explained the law to them, only for them to return days/weeks later and the same thing happens. I’m more than happy to piss of a few people and make the occasional incorrect assumption to not only keep my job, but not throw $17,000 away

  • In the case of liquor stores, anyone suspected of being underage — or of buying for an underage acquaintance — must be refused service.

    This happened to a friend of mine, they raised the point that surely this means a parent cannot buy alcohol if their child is with them?

    You cannot say with all certainty that someone with ID buying booze will be supplying it to the person who’s with them that doesn’t have ID, just as you cannot say with all certainty that the parent won’t give any booze to the child!

    • I think the law treats parents of children differently, since a parent of a child is responsible for them they can buy alcohol. Whereas I’m not responsible for my underage friend or sibling. A parent can give their own child alcohol in their own home. It becomes potentially illegal if it’s someone elses kid.

  • Heh. Yeah, I’ve been harassed by some written-off folks in the Valley who were thrusting twenties in my face and imploring me to go to the liquor shop across the road to get them some cask wine because they’d been refused service.

    These dudes were fucking marinated in it, the fumes were wafting off them so bad if someone lit a match they’d have set the whole street on fire. Cameras everywhere, too – ‘Safe Precincts’ and all that. If it wasn’t for the gum disease I’d almost have feared it was an undercover sting.

    Better to refuse, even if it means copping some agro.

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