View Full Version : Question about "carding" in restaurants

04-08-2011, 07:59 PM
Could somebody please tell me what happens if two people of very different ages go into a restaurant (in the United States), and the older person orders a bottle of wine -- presumably for both of them.

For concreteness, let's assume a man in his mid-forties and a girl who looks about 18, in a very expensive, up-scale french restaurant.

Will the staff demand I.D. from the girl? And if she is in fact under-age, will they refuse to serve either party, or will they serve only him, or what? And if they serve only him, and he then shares the wine with her, will the couple be evicted from the restaurant?

Oh, and would this vary from state to state? If so, I'm specifically interested in Montana.

Thanks in Advance!

04-08-2011, 08:06 PM
Yes. The staff will card the girl if the gentleman orders two glasses. They will serve him regardless, but not her unless she's of legal age. In some states, however, a parent CAN serve their underage child in a public place. So if he's the girl's father, he can order a glass for her.

If they serve only the man and HE gives the girl wine without the server or the bar's agreement, then they might very well be asked to leave the restaurant. US law states that even if the server didn't give the minor alcohol, if they provide alcohol to an overage customer who then hands it to a minor, the server, bartender and manager are STILL liable for underage service and can be fined/be sentenced to jail.

I am not familiar with the liquor laws in Montana.

04-08-2011, 08:09 PM
The law would mandate that the girl should be carded and not served the wine, but the older gentlemen could still order the bottle. Technically, only the people over 21 should get a glass though.

However, it would vary by restaurant as to what REALLY happens. Like, let's say the guy is a high-roller or VIP or a celebrity, some servers/management may be inclined to look the other way and pretend not to know. I worked in event planning for 5 years and we did this sometimes w/ clients. If someone who just paid A LOT of money for an event serves someone at his table who was of questionable age, we just kind of acted like we had no clue what was going on. Though if the minor were to walk directly up to the bar and order her own drink, she would not have been served. Does that make sense?

Though honestly, there is a lot of liability there. If something were to have happened to the minor in question, we could have all been in a lot of trouble. It still happens though.

That was a long winded answer. All that to say: legally, the girl should be carded and not served but people do push the limits.

04-08-2011, 08:34 PM
Over here in the UK, there are examples of people being refused alcohol in supermarkets because they took their kids with them on the weekly shop.

All together now:

Political correctness gone...:D

Incidentally, again over here, there's no law stopping teenagers savouring a glass of wine in a restaurant.

Go figure is, I believe, the term!



04-08-2011, 08:36 PM
In a perfect world everything that Mscelina said would happen but really I highly doubt that she would even be carded. If she is in a skimpy dress in a high class restaurant waiters tend to pretty much ignore everything except the food on the table and the money in your hand. I have seen kids who are not even young enough to drive walk into a convenience store and buy cigarettes and alcoholic and the cashier doesn't even bother to card them. Bottom line is they just don't wanna deal with the confrontation. I think that if you perhaps mention the waiters indifference or that they give a raised eyebrow but don't say anything that would be completely believable in the real world. IMHO :)

04-08-2011, 10:08 PM
What do you want to have happen? If you give us your ideal scenario, we can help you get there. Like others have said, it really could go in any direction. Just in my own personal experience, I was refused service at 21 b/c my 19 yo friend was with me. I was served at 15 on an airplane with my father. I've been at more than one mixed-age table (ranging from 16 to mid-30s) where wine glasses were distributed and filled for everyone. I haven't been to Montana, but I've traveled extensively through the U.S. and these situations and more have occurred in all different states.

So...decide what the scene requires, and we can help you make it realistic.

04-08-2011, 10:16 PM
Legally, the staff is supposed to card her, but that's not always what happens. It depends on the restaurant and the waiter.

04-08-2011, 11:00 PM
We've had our young-adult kids carded when they were out with us, clearly a family gathering--and we've had them not carded, too, with a wine glass brought for each person at the table, no question. This hasn't really changed in the eight years since they were out of high school (and too young to be served)

I second the suggestion that if you'll share the scenario and what you want to have happen, we'll help you get there plausibly.

Maryn, with two bottles chilling for tonight

04-08-2011, 11:08 PM
What do you want to have happen? .

Thanks VERY much to everyone who replied. I think y'all have given me the info that I needed.

To answer blackrose602's question: The only important thing, from the standpoint of the story, is that she eventually does get served. I could either have the staff 'forget' to card her, or I could have them discover -- to their great surprise -- that she really is 21.

Thanks again!!

04-08-2011, 11:14 PM
Actually, I disagree with PinkAmy and BySharonNelson. I worked over the course of two decades in the bar business, including multiple stints at A-list clubs in southern Florida, Nashville and New York. Unless the girl is a known celebrity, any respectable bar or club or restaurant will require their staff to card her--and if she is a known celebrity, she's likely to be carded anyway. The fines for serving underage alcohol are getting pretty big, and ten grand is a lot of money for a server or a bartender to fork over. Having refused service upon many occasions to well-known teenagers looking to score booze, I can tell you with absolute knowledge of the industry that the majority of restaurant/bar/club owners are very strict about underage drinking. This isn't the 70s anymore; this is 2011. The rules have changed.

Is that to say that ALL bars are like that? No. A disreputable bar would serve her. A busy restaurant without someone paying attention to the drink service might permit a waiter, looking to make a bigger tip, to 'overlook' the obvious minor drinking wine at his/her table. (Chances are the bartender would eventually catch sight of the kid drinking and send someone over to investigate) But regardless, the main thing to remember is that in the US the ability to drink alcohol is not a right, it's a privilege. Legally, any bartender/server/waiter/manager/bar/club/restaurant can refuse to serve ANYONE alcohol at ANY time for ANY reason.

Minors getting trashed in your A-list bar is NOT good publicity. Not any more. The bar industry has changed significantly in the last decade or so and responsible service of alcohol is at the top of the list.

04-09-2011, 12:20 AM
But mscelnia- you're talking about a specific type of bar/restaurant in a resort areas. I have been carded when I was in my early 40s, LOL and I've also been with teens who haven't been carded in a restaurant (fortunately not on the same day or I would be very insulted, LOL). I live in the philly suburbs, there are lots of elegant, hole-in-the wall restaurants, not part of a chain and not in a high traffic area. Carding is not the norm in the situation the OP suggests.

04-09-2011, 01:03 AM
I worked at small, boutique restaurants owned by Europeans -- one French, one Italian. We would never have carded her. Of course, the restaurants were the favorites of the big players in town, if you catch my drift.

I personally drew the line at letting a snooty 8-year-old brat do the wine service once, though. My manager said he'd wished I'd asked him first before denying that!

04-09-2011, 01:13 AM
I have a different comment to make here. In Oregon we are not allowed to 'double up' or provide someone with an amount of alcohol that would make the over the limit. I am not allowed to serve a large pitcher of beer to a single person because of this. So if the male is the only one drinking, I don't think he would be served an entire bottle. If I were the server, after ordering a bottle he would have to order two glasses, and at that time I would card the younger female.

Chicago Expat
04-09-2011, 01:30 AM
Big consequences for a restaurant if they lose their liquor license, which will happen if they serve underage.

The thing is, I don't think you're going to get a definitive answer. It's going to vary from region to region, restaurant to restaurant. Joel Robuchon could join AW and post that he would never card in that instance, but that won't mean anything to a French restaurant in Montana that is in a neighborhood getting sweated by the local liquor commission.

I recommend calling a couple French restaurants in Montana that meet your scene requirements and ask what they would typically do. I assume that if they receive an unsolicited call like that, they'll tell you they card.

Chicago Expat
04-09-2011, 01:44 AM
Thanks VERY much to everyone who replied. I think y'all have given me the info that I needed.

To answer blackrose602's question: The only important thing, from the standpoint of the story, is that she eventually does get served. I could either have the staff 'forget' to card her, or I could have them discover -- to their great surprise -- that she really is 21.

Thanks again!!

Sorry, somehow I overlooked your post when I made my reply.

The short answer is you have plausibility no matter what you choose to do. I can envision all types of scenarios in which she does and doesn't get carded.

04-09-2011, 04:27 AM
Where I live, restaurants and bars have been shut down for serving minors regardless of how the liquor was served. It's all about the location, the local laws and how stringently they are enforced. I guarantee, though, if a town or area has had a string of alcohol-related deaths among young people, the police are out doing stings and the local bars are carding just about everyone.

My daughter had her license taken from her at a rock event. (She tried to buy a bottle of beer. She was of age.) They took her license, assuming it was false because she looks about twelve. She had to find the head of security to get it back. (They ran her card through some state security check and found it was okay.)

Yeah, and lots of us have got carded well into our 20's and 30's.


04-09-2011, 04:51 AM
You can most certainly work the scenario any way you like - starting with the man's request.

"Could you bring us a bottle of Château Very Rich 92?" Implies that the wine is for both of them. The waiter would card the girl as a matter of course. Some states require servers to card ANYONE who 'looks younger than thirty' - that's the actual description of the law. So carding her would be no big deal, and nothing at all unusual.

"I would like a bottle of Chateau Very Rich '92" Implies a bottle for the man only, and one glass comes with it.

I have ordered for 'A pitcher of margaritas' at a table with two under-aged ladies - who COULD pass for over twenty one, and they brought glasses for them as well - no carding. So you could work that if you like.

It's your call.

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-10-2011, 06:26 PM
Oh, and would this vary from state to state? If so, I'm specifically interested in Montana.

Definitely varies from state to state, and Montana's laws, and liquor licensing, is some of the strangest in the country. No one would risk losing their license - it's worth $$$$$$!



16-6-305. Age limit for sale or provision of alcoholic beverages -- liability of provider. (1) (a) Except in the case of an alcoholic beverage provided in a nonintoxicating quantity to a person under 21 years of age by the person's parent or guardian, physician or dentist for medicinal purposes, a licensed pharmacist upon the prescription of a physician, or an ordained minister or priest in connection with a religious observance, a person may not sell or otherwise provide an alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age.

(b) A parent, guardian, or other person may not knowingly sell or otherwise provide an alcoholic beverage in an intoxicating quantity to a person under 21 years of age.

(c) For the purposes of this section, "intoxicating quantity" means a quantity of an alcoholic beverage that is sufficient to produce:
(i) a blood, breath, or urine alcohol concentration in excess of 0.05; or
(ii) substantial or visible mental or physical impairment.

(2) A person (the server, baertender, etc.) is guilty of a misdemeanor who:
(a) invites a person under the age of 21 years into a public place where an alcoholic beverage is sold and treats, gives, or purchases an alcoholic beverage for the person;
(b) permits the person in a public place where an alcoholic beverage is sold to treat, give, or purchase alcoholic beverages for the person; or
(c) holds out the person to be 21 years of age or older to the owner of the establishment or to the owner's employee.

(3) It is unlawful for any person to fraudulently misrepresent the person's age to any dispenser of alcoholic beverages or to falsely procure any identification card or to alter any of the statements contained in any identification card, including a tribal identification card.
(4) A person 21 years of age or older who violates the provisions of subsection (1)(b) is, in addition to applicable criminal penalties, subject to civil liability for damages resulting from a tortious act committed by the person to whom the intoxicating substance was sold or provided if the act is judicially determined to be the result of the intoxicated condition created by the violation. (See compiler's comments for contingent termination of certain text.)