Bob vs. Liquor Stores
Bust Bob's Chops

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© 1999 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

'Bob for apples' just has a whole new meaning, doesn't it?
On January 1, 1999, Bob Levey said:

"Fervent wishes for 1999... that liquor store owners will figure out how to be funnier. Sermons are off-putting. Humor almost never is."

Going out of business is off-putting too. And that's what happens to liquor store owners who don't take carding seriously.

The way this big bad world works is that liquor store owners get penalized when people who aren't supposed to be buying alcohol give it a go anyway. That's because, in an odd situation of double-liability, it's just as illegal to sell alcohol to certain people as it is for the people to buy it. Thus, Authority can go after the provider when they can't catch, or can't prosecute, the user.

And since underage drinkers usually get a slap on the wrist if they get caught at all, it's just easier to go after the poor slobs who own a store selling an otherwise-legal product. This is why liquor stores which operate in a high-surveillance area tend to be extraordinarily anal about carding. Not carding the wrong person will cost them a heap of money and bad press; repeated mistakes could cost a liquor store its license. A liquor store without an alcohol license is nothing more than a walk-in soda machine. It won't last long.

Customers who get upset about being carded, even if they're more likely to hand over an AARP memebership card than a driver's license, need to understand that it's not the store owner's fault. They should complain to their representatives, not to the guy behind the counter.

The obvious but previously unaddressed question is why the store owners have been put in this position to begin with. After all, any 16-year-old can tell you how utterly futile it is to prevent underage drinking by clamping down on the stores. IDs can be forged, and when the forging becomes too difficult or expensive, middlemen can be hired. Oh sure, that's illegal too, but so what? Like they're going to get caught!

Once in a while, Authority manages to catch one of these beer gofers who then becomes the poster boy for all the bad people in the world corrupting our children. For five minutes. Then life resumes and underage drinkers continue to drink.

It doesn't make sense to maintain this façade of preventing underage drinking. No, this isn't about the tired clichés like being old enough to die for the country, old enough to pay taxes, old enough to drive a car, old enough to raise a family, but not old enough to have a beer. This is about pure practicality.

A law which is ineffectively enforced does not prevent the criminalized act; it only breeds contempt for the system and distrust of the police. Look at the few remaining interstates which cling to the 55 mph speed limit for an example. Youngsters who are hellbent to get beer will get it; they'll also learn how to be sneaky and underhanded along the way. Too bad they can't be treated like honest citizens!

Our drinking age limit seems to be based on some arbitrary Puritan moral standard rather than on any practical basis. Exposing someone to alcohol at a younger age will allow them to be used to its pros and cons; as they age they will be less likely to go on drinking binges because beer will not be a novelty. And even if they do get drunk while they're still young and foolish, what's the harm? With the exception of a few belligerent barroom bullies, the average drunk is a nuisance but not a danger (unless they try to drive -- but no one is advocating a change in the DUI laws). Better they learn young when the consequences are less severe.

The best part of eliminating the minimum drinking age is that it benefits everyone else, too. Youths do not grow up suspicious of police. Store owners do not need to fear losing their livelihood for selling to the wrong customer. And customers don't need to be asked for proof of age to buy a cold one.

I'll toast to that.