Sunday, October 08, 2006

San Diego, Strangely, the Conclusion

See below for parts I and II.

Schmidt and I left San Diego Saturday afternoon with questions: Were O’Connells staff members right in saying they couldn’t allow me in the bar without photo ID? And even though it was a private establishment with the right to refuse service to anyone, were they being understandably cautious businesspeople, or uptight stiffs? And were those concrete domes along the 5 indeed the same structures that reminded Lt. Frank Drebin of his ex-wife in “The Naked Gun”?

I turned to a number of sources for the first question. First, I e-mailed the office of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and asked if in fact O’Connells was legally required to boot me since I had no photo ID. The next day, I received this response:

Private establishments do have the right to refuse entrance to patrons who do not have proper identification. What is most important is that you have a current identification with your picture. Therefore, temporary licenses only work as identification as long as you have your expired license. Since your prior license was stolen, you must have other proper identification such as a passport or identification card.

Thank you,
Community Outreach
Office of the Mayor

San Diego, CA

I also e-mailed San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox (no specific reason why I e-mailed Cox; he was just the first one I found) and asked him the same question. Two days later, he responded with this:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding the identification regulations that exist for local liquor the [sic] establishments. Proper identification at drinking establishments is an area of law entirely governed by State of California. Although, I would add that I think a bar has the discretion to require whatever it believes best represents proof of a person's age. In other words, I don't think the State dictates to bars or for that matter, any establishment that serves liquor what type of proof of age to require before the bar allows a person to drink alcohol. My understanding is that the State has set the minimum drinking age, and it's up to bars to determine how best to comply with that law.

Hope this information helps.

Supervisor, First District

So far, so confusing. Two different officials gave me two different answers. The mayor said I need some form of photo ID to gain entry, the supervisor said it’s up to the bars’ discretion. I’m sure this discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the state sets these regulations rather than municipalities, if Cox is correct. I think Cox backed up his answer more solidly than the mayor’s office, but I’m a tad biased.

So I needed to go to the state for the definitive answer. Instead of trying to wade through the California bureaucracy, I outsourced the research to the pros at the California Ask Now! Service. (Quick note about this: Libraries are amazing. Most of them these days offer a 24-7 research service via their Web sites. You simply instant-message the library your query, and its research hounds hunt for answers. In Cleveland, we successfully used it to prove Mike Zawacki’s assertion that bald eagles stand at about 3 feet tall.)

After a few days’ searching, the library sent me an exhaustive reply. Here’s the pertinent, and I think definitive, information from the San Diego Municipal Code and California Alcoholic Beverage Control:

The [San Diego Municipal Code] section I found that most specifically addressed your question at the city level is 56.62, section a(1). I’ve copied the text below:

It is the duty of any person having control of any premises, who knowingly hosts, permits, or allows a gathering at said premises to take all reasonable steps to prevent the consumption of alcoholic beverages by any minor at the gathering. Reasonable steps are controlling access to alcoholic beverages at the gathering; verifying the age of persons attending the gathering by inspecting drivers licenses or other government-issued identification cards to ensure that minors do not consume alcoholic beverages while at the gathering; and supervising the activities of minors at the gathering.

The research hound then turned to the state for a definition of proper photo identification.

In their section of Frequently Asked Questions about Enforcement and Violations (, Alcoholic Beverage Control offers this definition of acceptable identification:

Q. 74. What is documentary evidence of age and identity?
A. To be suitable as evidence for a defense, the identification card must be issued by a governmental agency and have a current description and a picture of the person presenting it which reasonably describes the person as to date of birth weight, height, sex and color of eyes and hair. No defense will exist if the card has obviously been altered or has expired. A registration certificate issued under the Federal Selective Service Act is no longer considered documentary evidence of age, identity and date of birth. (Section 25660)

So there we have it: I didn’t have sufficient identification to be served suds, but O’Connells was under no legal obligation to kick me out. None of the language the library service found forbade someone without ID establishing age of majority from merely being in a bar.

O’Connells is a private business, and it can do whatever it wants. I have no problem with a bar refusing to serve some moron with a temporary ID. Had that been a fake, O’Connells could have gotten in tons of trouble, and no one wants that. But I also think the people who run O’Connells are smart enough to have the discretion to look at me, listen to my story, and allow me to just sit there and listen to the Blanks. Cook put it more eloquently than I did, but it’s obvious that I’m safely older than 21. O’Connells’ restrictive policy prevented me from having what promised to be an outstanding evening, and did nothing to protect its liquor license or standing in the community.

As for the concrete domes along the 5, I’ll have to get a photo the next time I’m en route to and/or from San Diego. But I’m confident Craig and I are right on that one.

After we got back to L.A., Schmidt and I were lounging in my apartment before I had to go to work. As I putzed around, I went through the mail I brought in the previous day before running out the door.

And there was my new license. And there was wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and throwing of things.


Two words about the Tigers, about which more soon: Holy Christ.


Hayley said...

I hate to be a downer (no I don't) but the fact remains that they had no real way of knowing that you are over 21, and your story could have been anyone else's story. What they were concerned with was the possibility of Ryan passing you liquor, which would have then been their responsibility (had you been a minor). You know?

Craig said...

Why you little ...

Yes, but my point is that they weren't REQUIRED to kick me out, which is what they were contending. And I've been in plenty of bars where they merely stamp your hand to indicate whether you can or can't drink. Seems to work for all those places.

Anonymous said...

"the office of San Diego Mayer Jerry Sanders"

Shouldn't that say "Mayor"? Or am I missing an alternate spelling?

Go Tigers?


Craig said...

My dad has an Uncle Mayer, but -- crud! -- I was wrong.

And there should be no question mark after that "Go Tigers," A.B.

Solari said...

For what it's worth, you've looked the same since you were about 19. So there you have it.

Rexrode's going to Friday's game at the CoPa.

Anonymous said...

I think they are Bastards for not letting you stay and as long as the blanks bare breath we will fight for your good name at o'connells.
thanks for the efforts, it meant a ton to us all.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog when looking for San Diego liquor and ID laws. A buddy of mine had the same problem, but with a US Passport. Yeah, it does not have a physical description (weight, height, etc.) - and the Shout House does not accept them as proper ID.