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Concord shoppers denied alcohol because of D.C. residency

Travis Mitchell and a few friends stepped up to a checkout counter at the Concord Food Co-op last Saturday with some lunch items and two or three alcoholic beverages. Unsurprisingly, they were asked to show identification.

Surprisingly, Mitchell said, they were turned away.

The problem was not that any of them were underage, he said. Or that their driver’s licenses were fake. Or that they appeared inebriated or otherwise suspicious. The problem, a manager explained, was that they are from Washington, D.C.

According to state law – RSA 179:8 – businesses that sell alcohol can accept four types of legal proof of age: a passport, a military card, or a driver’s license or photo identification from any of the 50 states, as well as provinces of Canada. Not once is the District of Columbia, or any of the U.S. territories, mentioned.

“It’s just one of those quirks,” said Joshua Bourassa, customer service manager at the co-op.

“We get three to four people each year who we can’t sell to because they don’t have proper identification,” he said. “We apologize profusely and ask them for a passport . . . and then say, ‘You can probably go to another store where they will allow it.’ ”

Mitchell, a 25-year-old New Hampshire native, was dumbfounded. He said he switched his legal residency a year or two ago and has never had an issue purchasing alcohol from other businesses.

“I don’t fault the guy for enforcing the law,” he said. “It just seemed bizarre at the time – and it still does.”

James Wilson, director of enforcement and licensing at the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, said he wasn’t aware of any similar instances. In any case, he said, the statute is the final authority.

“Many times when we do training, we tell (businesses) this is the letter of the law,” Wilson said. But, he added, “We don’t tell them necessarily that a D.C. license is invalid.”

It’s unclear why the capital was omitted from the statute. RSA 179 was enacted in 1990 as part of a broad recodification of the state’s liquor laws. Legislators last reviewed the proof of age requirements in 1998.

State Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican who owns The Draft sports bar in Concord, said he was not aware of the exclusion – or the story behind it.

“I’m assuming there was nothing malevolent about it,” he said.

Sanborn said he would still gladly accept a D.C. license.

“I would take their money and give them a beer,” he said.

So would Ron Parker, co-owner of Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett.

“The intent is to make sure we’re not selling to someone who is inebriated, or to minors, or to someone who is buying for minors,” Parker said. “I think those are (lawmakers’) primary concerns.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

Legacy Comments12

This country would be a much better place if everyone who resides in or is employed in Washington, DC was made to go on the wagon. No booze for any of them! It's a big enough mess now.

I think you would be hard pressed to find this situation occurring in any other venue across the State. I am just curious how the checkout person even was aware of this obvious and seemingly unknown glitch. I would say this blind attention to detail would make one rather annoying, but that's just me.

Well you would know a thing or two about being annoying. However, that said, I agree with your sentiment. Probably some employee who took a TIPS course and is so black and white interpreting everything that they can't reason.

“Many times when we do training, we tell (businesses) this is the letter of the law,” Wilson said. But, he added, “We don’t tell them necessarily that a D.C. license is invalid.”- RSA 259:106, a motor vehicle statute includes Washington DC in the list of places that are referenced as "state." Someone needs to train the Liquor Inspectors how to act in a logical manner and how to read a statute.

Liquor inspectors? Have you ever met these folks? Not too many independent thinkers. Some relative more than likely got them the job.

In all seriousness, it appears to be a benign oversight on the part of the NHSLC. A dumb one, for sure, but I don't think they did it with intent to injure either party; vendor or patron. The dilemma posed to the Concord Food Co-op is viable, however. They can still lose their license to sell beer/wine by violating the law, no matter how ridiculous that law may be. That said, if placed in the Co-op's shoes, I would do same as Parker and Sanborn; honor the DC ID, and let the NHSLC make a mountain out of a mole-hill. Maybe State Senator Sanborn can use his influence to correct this snafu. Seems he has a vested interest in that regard.


Thumbs up to Andy Sanborn for ignoring the Liquor Commission's ridiculous interpretation of the law. Unlike the Liquor Commission--which seems to delight in ruining tourism sales to our State whenever it can--as every other NH business owner, Sanborn actually has to serve customers, instead of jerk them around. The District of Columbia wasn't included because NH law ALREADY provides that when interpreting a statute, "state" may include the District of Columbia or a U.S. territory. The Liquor Commission has the ability to "allow it" D.C. licenses. The Liquor Commission CHOOSES that ridiculous interpretation.

But Travis Mitchell's trip to the Concord Food Co-op wasn't all for naught. While his residency status didn't qualify for the purchase of alcohol, it was good enough to get him an application to run for governor of New Hampshire.

I'm still waiting for an explaination of why it was fine for Hillary to move to New York, being a large "blue state", so she could maximize her chances of get elected to the US Senate.

Because progressives operate from a standpoint of double standards. They really don't care about what is right but they do care about the ends justifying means.

Thank you for chiming in, rje49, because I forgot to mention something. The reverse side of the application to run for governor of New Hampshire Travis Mitchell procured at the Concord Food Co-op, provides same for US Senator from NH.

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