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Concord shoppers denied alcohol because of D.C. residency

Last modified: 7/13/2014 11:58:47 PM
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, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)


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