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

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.

Cheers, Lifehacker

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This story was originally published in January 2015.


  • I once tried two six packs of mixed craft beer as xmas presents (you know the ones that come specifically packaged for that?) with my Fiancée’s younger sister in tow (I think she was 13 or 14 at the time).

    Just like JWAB, the shop assistant wanted to see both IDs, and refused to serve us when I explained what the beer was for. My mind was blown by the stupidity of the law – surely if I was buying grog for her I could have just left her in the car?! (I probably also wouldn’t be buying craft beer…).

    It’s a little bit gratifying to know that I’m not the only person who got stung by a dumb rule.

    • I had a time when my brother picked me up from school and he had also asked him to get him a box of beer my brother just dropped me off at the corner.He later picked me up after because it had happened once before.

      I’d also say i have to agree that the law is quite absurd since the work around is easy as making a person wait someone where else

    • But think about it, how many people here have had someone buy alcohol for them when they were underage? Its pretty damn common.

      Considering how common it is and how strict laws are about serving alcohol to minors, don’t you think that as someone who works or owns a liquor store you would be cautious about who you serve. Especially as if caught, not only do they get in trouble, but you can as well.

      I knew a guy who’s store had been fined because the cops had picked up some kids for drinking in the park, it turned out that in the bag was a receipt for the store less than an hour earlier. There was more than enough evidence at the time of the incident to show that the store had (either directly or indirectly) supplied to minors. Wether or not an adult bought it, i’m not sure, but the person on duty was a casual so they were fired.

      Moral of this story is, if you want to go to the bottle shop, leave minors outside. If you work at a bottle shop, I can completely understand if you want to check for ID.

      • Except they’re not serving the second person, that person is just an onlooker. What if you’re a mum/dad with a toddler or baby you can’t leave in a car? You’ve got to take them inside. So is the bottle store going to want to ID them too? That scenario is no different to the one the OP was in.

        As for prosecuting the store for kids drinking in the park, that seems unusual. Since there’s a whole huge chain of events possible between sale and the kids drinking it. eg: They could have stolen it. I would think the only way that receipt could have lead to a charge was along these lines;

        1. Cops found receipt.
        2. Receipt was used to justify viewing stores security footage.
        3. They saw the shop selling kids booze on the security footage.

    • I was going to reply but @Wraith pretty much said what I was going to.

      Its only against the law to supply alcohol to minors. If someone bought alcohol and said that it wasnt for the 13 year old there and they were sold the alcohol only to later be caught by the cops then that store is then liable for the supply.

      The work around of leaving the minors outside isn’t really a workaround at all; but it means the store is unaware of minors potentially getting the alcohol and thus they are then not legally liable for it if they do.

      They are covering themselves from potential strife; its understandable and completely reasonable.

      • Let’s be clear, I completely understand where you and @Wraith are saying. And I can empathise with the position of the store – it’s not good business to flaunt with the law.

        But I don’t think that changes the absurdity of the situation. The implication of what the store is doing is that if I have a minor with me when I purchase alcohol, I am going to supply that minor with the alcohol. The entire premise seems idiotic.

        For example, what if a father picks up his kids from school and then drops into a bottle store to pick up wine for a dinner party? Is his only option to leave his children in the car? Doesn’t that seem idiotic to you?

        And, where does age come into all this? Only a few weeks later I was back in the same bottle store and a mother was buying alcohol with her son (I’m assuming), who was probably 7 or 8. Apparently that was fine with the cashier (the exact same one who stopped me, no less). Does that really make sense? If the girl who was with me was younger, would that have been OK? What about 9 or 10? What is the age where I should leave a young girl alone outside? Is that really what the law is trying to achieve?

        • How is the cashier meant to know your intentions? Just take your word for it? You could say it’s for you and then give them the alcohol anyway. Cashier instantly in trouble, risks getting a fine and potentially losing their job.

          For example, what if a father picks up his kids from school and then drops into a bottle store to pick up wine for a dinner party? Is his only option to leave his children in the car? Doesn’t that seem idiotic to you?
          There is another option here, take the kids home first and come back later? Once again, just because it’s an inconvenience to you, you ask them to risk their job?

          If you don’t like it, don’t bring them alcohol shopping with you.

          • No offense, I know this is an old comment, but clearly you never studied law. There has to be intent.

            Otherwise, some minors could break in your house, steal your booze and drink it, and then you get arrested for supplying them with alcohol.

            Common sense is not so common.

        • It may have more to do with whether it looks like you will supply the minor, the store attendant at the time etc. I think if you are obviously a father and you have a young child then maybe the person thinks its ok. Obviously some clerks are going to take it a bit to the extreme on occasion.

        • father/mother who visits a store to purchase a bottle of wine can be served reason being father/mother is/are considered responsible adult by law… but if say you are 18 and you have a minor accompanying you in that case cashier would ask for id to young looking male/female as well as you reason being you may or may not serve the person outside..which is a risk. A cashier cant allow in this instance, lets say you served a minor outside in that case the business and cashier both parties liable under the law. Had the cashier checked both ids it would discourage any parties from purchase of alcohol for minor.

          • Sorry, you speak of the law but you do not seem to know much about it. You cannot be held liable for a redistribution of alcohol unless you were aware of it. It would seem common sense to me, but the law require mens rea for culpability.

        • I agree. This is over stepping bounds a little. A business shouldn’t pick and choose when they want to enforce their rules. If the person buying the liquor is over 21, then who cares? It’s on that person then to not allow the underage people to drink the alcohol…not the liquor store.

    • I am 43 and my boyfriend is 35. Last week I stopped into a store to buy a bottle of wine. The cashier asked for both our ID’s. I thought it was ridiculous. My BF twased me that he was not going to show his ID to prevent me from buying the wine. What if I had my 19 year old son with me? It was very strange?

    • That sounds strange that the checkout operator refused to sell beer to an adult who walk in to the shop with someone younger in their family. It looks like bottle shops wants super strict about age.
      How about if parents are driving with kids and on a way want to buy a wine for example ?
      I had a situation that the staff/manager in Dan Murphy didn’t allowed me to choose and pick up a beer to go to the checkout and refused selling a beer to me at all, despite I’m over 25

  • In NZ (Where I reside currently) the law just states that the person buying the alcohol must be ID’d, and in practise that happens, rarely if ever do my GF and I both get ID’d (we’re both 26 but we look ~18 :-P)

    I wonder if the Australian law is the same but that most/all liquor chains have adopted the general rule of group-ID’ing to be safe?

    • I have just recently come back from NZ and I was staying with my partners parents at the time.

      The lady at the supermarket literally seemed like she wanted to get us in trouble – Asking both myself and my partner for ID when it was her mother purchasing the alcohol (and we were standing behind her helping load the groceries).

      Firstly I kindly handed her my Australian Drivers Licence – she literally took a 2 second glimpse before shoving it back in my face saying – No this is no good I want a passport.

      Thankfully my girlfriend had them still in the depths of her handbag – after a couple mins of searching and like 5 staff members slowly swarming around us she pulled them out and we were on our way.

      It just rattled me how weird the feeling was – I’m 25 and my partners 28 So we don’t look like early 20’s kids. But these people seemed adamant to bust her mother purchasing 2 bottles of Wine…

      • Yeah this is my experience also..

        I lived in Auckland for a year, and we shopped at New World and had been fine with Aussie Drivers license until oneday we just weren’t and they harassed us for a passport instead. Ridiculous. Made a big scene about it and everything at the checkout.

  • Is it illegal for a parent to give their child alcohol in Australia. In NZ (as I used to live there) I know that its legal for a parent to give their child/minor alcohol in a controlled environment or something.

    • Its still quite possible its equally illegal in both countries. Allowing minors to drink is like letting a minor drive a car on your own property – It’s illegal but almost everyone’s done it at some point in time – although unless you’re blatantly doing it in-front of police and its ‘done responsibly’ nobody cares, there’s children growing up on wine in France and they seem ok.

      “She’ll be right” – as Australians say.

  • Generally speaking they will only ask for ID if they have some reason to suspect that the alcohol is for the person with you, but some people will be more careful than others.

    My cousin works at BWS and has had situations where 2 people come in, discuss which alcohol to buy, then one person brings the alcohol to the counter and get extremely angry when he asks for ID from the other person.

  • they should make it an 18+ zone. meaning your dero father can’t drag your 12 year old son into the bottle O where he gets the sense that its okay to drink as heavy as daddy does!

  • Used to work @ a Liquorland (in NSW) and they are classed as an “off-license” liquor store….you can purchase alcohol but cant consume it witin the store.

    As off-license you technically have to be 18 to enter, and as a rule of thumb ALL “groups” of people especially buying specific RTD’s every member would be asked for ID otherwise the sale would be declined.

    Havent worked there for a while so the laws might have changed but the principle stays the same.

  • Laws are very harsh on the establishment. Had a 26yo female who didnt carry ID and was denied purchasing.

    I think they would follow the idea that only official looking guardians would be allowed to purchase with a minor.

  • I drove my mates to the bottle shop once and went inside with them. I wasn’t drinking that night so wasn’t buying anything. They asked for ID as we were entering the shop. I’d left my wallet in the car and couldn’t be bothered going back for it. They wouldn’t serve my mates until I stepped out of the store. They had no issue serving them when I stepped and stood just outside the doorway even though I still hadn’t shown any ID.
    I’m still failing to see the logic in it.

  • Firstly I kindly handed her my Australian Drivers Licence – she literally took a 2 second glimpse before shoving it back in my face saying – No this is no good I want a passport.

    The irony is the lady can actually be fined for refusing a legal ID.

    the whole thing really is a little on the stupid side, what kid doesn’t just go “hey dad grab me a bottle of jack, here’s $50” and waits outside. legally if the store has asked the person buying it for ID, and advised the person that its illegal to suppy that alcohol to minors, then he’s done the right thing

  • Yeah they go completely over the top with these things. My advice is, if your local liquor store treats you like shit, and demands stupid things like seeing IDs of other people in your group, just shop somewhere else. Maybe send them a letter or email tell them they’ve lost a customer due to their pedantic enforcement of overbearing rules.

  • I actually work for a bottleshop… And unfortantly they have that law where I work to. If 1 young person comes in with a group of friends I am told to check all their ID’s if 1 does not have 1 than I can’t sell them The alcohol. alot of young people try to buy alcohol you wouldn’t believe the amount of young people we had turned away.. To those people that is why we make those laws as a staff member I do not want to be fined a hefty amount of money..

    • Hey man, i was with a friend yesterday. Hes 21 and from NY and im 22 and a student on visa in the USA. I was accompanying him while he ran errands for his parents and we were both asked to show ID. Now i use my passport ID everywhere without a problem but yesterday i was told that my ID was not valid and that they had to deny my friend the purchase. And thats just a sugarcoated summary of what happened. I left that store feeling racially profiled and attacked. The manager was behind the counter when she rung us up and treated the situation in the most deplorable of ways. She then lied about the races of the cashiers saying the 2 women were indian and black. When she herself is white, and the girl at the register was also white. I respect laws and policies wherever I am, but when those policies are being backed up by a rude, lying woman, i cannot help but feel there was some malicious intent behind the denial of the sale. Help me out? Were they right to deny me my official ID issued by my government?

      • Yes this exact thing happened to me yesterday. I usually go to a liquor shop where the owner or manager is black or brown and they are usually cool with me bringing beer to the counter with my brother. We are both way over 21 and the clerk at this new shop DEMANDED both our IDs. Well honestly, as soon as we walked into that wine shop I automatically felt all eyes on us. As if we were being racially profiled. People grinning and making other disgusted faces. I had forgotten my own lD at the house so basically they refused service just for me touching the beer. IT got me upset and I told them it was the last time I ever go there. Was it racial? Probably or maybe the clerk just felt like being a douche

  • San Diego, CA: I just turned 45 and my B/F is 43. This has happened to us twice in the last 2 weeks. Once at a grocery store and again at Wal-Mart (while buying several other household items).

    Is there really a law to card all parties in the group when alcohol is being purchased… no matter how old they are? We look gooood, but not like we’re in our 20’s 😉

  • I work for BWS in a Melbourne store. No one under the age of 18 can enter our bottleshop unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. (RE: “Can you enter?”). This is why every single person in a group will be asked for ID as it is a licensed premises. If one of those persons cannot produce ID, therefore we can assume they are underage and we can refuse service to the remainder of the group in the basis of “potential secondary supply”. On that note, we also have the authority to refuse the sale if we believe that the parent or guardian is purchasing alcohol for the minor – even if it is their child. We can do this from our own assumptions within reason. For example if we can see a minor pointing out drinks, discussing drinks or using their own cash/bank card to pay for the drinks – we can refuse. But logic is needed, if a 13 year old girl has just accompanied their father into a store and he buys a slab of beer, there aren’t any grounds for us to refuse on, unless of course the girl appears to be pointing out to the father that this is the beer she wants.
    It’s a hard, risky job and sometimes us bottleshop staff may be in the wrong, but it’s much better to refuse service than to cop an $11,000 fine and loss of job! Xx

    • So say I enter a liquor store with a friend, and the friend is a young looking visitor who forget his/her id and hence I am refused any alcohol. The visitor then heads to the airport and returns back to his/her home country after leaving the store. How long am I now banned from buying liquor from that store from the same staff? A day? Week? Forever?? Same situation if one day I accidentally walk into a liquor store with my 16 year old son/daughter. All of a sudden I have to wait a few years (until child is of age) before buying any alcohol, now that the staff thinks I may supply it to my son/daughter? I don’t blame the staff, it’s the law that needs some serious re-work.

  • In NSW you’re not allowed to enter a bar with an infant. Nevermind that you’re obviously not going to give your baby a beer and just want to hang out with your friends, nope, can’t enter. If the human is under 18, no entry. I believe they do let you enter if you’re pregnant though!

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