Alcohol can only be sold to adults 21 or older – but until now, being 21 wasn’t always enough.
Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law HB 2031, which will allow Arizona merchants to sell liquor to anyone whose identification card shows that they are of legal drinking age. Prior to this week’s bill signing, liquor sales were prohibited to consumers who had a vertical driver’s license, regardless of their birthdate.
Horizontally rendered drivers licenses are issued to adults, while vertical driver’s licenses are issued to minors. For anyone who turned 21 before receiving their horizontal license, alcohol was a difficult commodity to obtain.
Ducey approved an emergency provision for the law, making it effective immediately.
State Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, has championed the bill since last summer, and said that the issue was first brought to his attention by a local business owner who had to turn away a former U.S. Marine.
The customer had just left the service, Borrelli said, and no longer had his military ID card. He visited a local bar with several of his friends, but his only form of identification was a vertical ID card, issued from another state. Arizona law required business owners to refuse to sell alcohol to the prospective customer, who took offense and left. The business owner, who had just lost several customers, contacted Borelli.
“It feels great to get this passed, and I’m glad the governor signed it so quickly,” Borrelli said. “We were trying to get the government to move at the speed of business, and I’m happy that the emergency provision makes this revision effective immediately. Normally, we would have to wait 90 days before it took effect.”
Borrelli said that the issue was never about the ability to purchase alcohol. “It was about protecting bartenders and vendors who could get fined $1,000 just for serving someone whose ID happened to be the wrong shape,” he said.
County Supervisor Buster Johnson, a former sheriff’s deputy, is glad that the bill passed, but is disappointed that a law was needed in the first place.
“These businesses should have been able to add to 21,” Johnson said. “It never should have been a problem. I’ve talked to business owners – it’s not like they took the ‘easy’ way out, looked at the ID’s shape and decided not to serve customers. They looked at the date and decided if their customer was old enough. It was much ado about nothing, and it’s a shame there had to be legislation for this.”
According to London Bridge Resort General Manager Cal Sheehy, relying on basic mathematics alone could still have put local businesses on the wrong side of the law. The London Bridge Resort oversees the Splash Grill, Martini Bay and Kokomo’s Night Club, which routinely serve alcohol to college students and winter visitors.
“Until the law just changed, we could not accept a vertical ID regardless of the birthdate, even if we knew they were over 21,” Sheehy said. “I’m happy – It’s definitely going to make for a better visitor experience. It’s certainly going to impact our business, but it’s also going to impact the experience of our guests.”