Ask LH: Can A Liquor Store Employee Ask To See My Friend’s ID If I’m Buying?

Dear Lifehacker, I have a question about the rights of bottle shop assistants to check IDs. I was at a bottle store a few days ago with a friend buying two bottles of beer. The checkout assistant asked for my ID which was fine and even a bit flattering (I’m almost 30). But then she asked my friend for her ID too.

We explained that I was the one purchasing the beer and she was merely accompanying me into the store. The checkout assistant replied bluntly with “It doesn’t matter, I need to check her ID as well.” I have not encountered this before. Do staff have the right to check the IDs of people that are not making the purchase? Thanks, Just Want A Beer

Bottle shop picture from Shutterstock

Dear JWAB,

While exact laws and liquor licensing acts vary slightly from state to state, it is always an offense to supply alcohol to minors. This includes customers procuring grog for their underage friends.

Significant fines apply for breaking these laws. For example, 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 $1,100 to 12 months in prison.

Understandably, liquor store employees are therefore trained to always err on the side of caution. As a general rule of thumb, a customer will be asked to show a proof-of-age card if they look between the ages of 18 and 25. In your case, you were buying two bottles of beer with a friend in tow, so it’s not unreasonable to presume you were having one each.

As to your question of “rights”, a licensed premises is perfectly within its rights to ask your friend to show her ID. Liquor stores are private property. Provided it’s inside the law, a business owner can set any rule they like. With that said, your friend also has the right to refuse their request – just don’t expect to walk out with any alcohol if she chooses to do so.


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This story was originally published in January 2015.

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