Enforcement captains answer more restaurant FAQs:
*The following article will appear in an upcoming edition of the Washington Restaurant Association’s The Front Burner magazine. The WSLCB enforcement captains and the Washington Restaurant Association provided the questions, and the captains provided the answers.
Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) enforcement officers work with restaurants across the state to ensure compliance with state liquor and tobacco laws. Officers review every case based on the totality of the circumstances. On any given situation, officers try to take a reasonable approach before making an enforcement decision.
LCB officers answer regularly asked questions below:
Why and when might a restaurant be visited by an LCB officer?
Generally, officers visit locations based on area needs, which are determined by licensing activities, requests for education and technical assistance, complaints from the public or law enforcement, police referral, LCB violation history, and DUI information. Also, if an officer is visiting a specific business, he or she will often stop in at nearby businesses at the same time. License types also determine the frequency of visits. For example, nightclubs will receive more visits than a family beer/wine restaurant.
There are four situations when an officer might visit:
* Compliance checks: An undercover investigative aide attempts to purchase liquor or tobacco using their real ID. These aides are accompanied by LCB officers.
* A premises check: An officer answers questions, offers training, discusses issues, makes sure proper signs are displayed, etc.
* A complaint investigation: See question below.
* An undercover operation: Officers visit a business unannounced in order to observe the business and watch for violations. A second team of officers may be in place to assist. The operations are typically carried out based on DUI history, complaints, and police referrals.
Someone filed a “complaint” with the LCB about my restaurant for a liquor law violation. What happens now?
A complaint is an allegation that the restaurant violated state liquor or tobacco laws. A complaint may come from a customer, law enforcement officer, member of the public, or employee.
Generally, the LCB officer will notify the restaurant of the allegation and conduct an investigation into the facts, which could include interviews with staff or a review of security tapes. If the officer is able to verify a violation occurred or finds it is still occurring, administrative action could be taken. The officer will normally perform two unannounced follow-up checks at the restaurant. Having an unfounded complaint on your record does not negatively impact your violation history.
Can a customer under the age of 21 pick up a tab that includes an alcoholic beverage? For example, a 19-year-old pays with his credit card because his dad forgot his wallet and the bill included a couple beers.
It is against the law to sell alcohol to a person under 21 or purchase alcohol if you are under 21.
Restaurants should be aware that physical evidence such as the receipt could be used to support allegations that the restaurant furnished alcohol to a minor. Outside of witnesses, it would be difficult to determine who actually consumed the alcohol.
Can restaurants offer free samples?
Retail licenses such as restaurants cannot give free samples. A customer must purchase alcohol at or above the restaurant’s acquisition cost.
Can restaurants accept a Washington Temporary Driver License (paper license)?
Checking identification is an important part of ensuring legal sales. You can accept a Washington Temporary Driver License, but you are not required to and some businesses do not. Remember, the expiration date at the bottom comes 45 days after issuance. Restaurants can choose which forms of acceptable IDs they will allow and many businesses develop policies about which kinds of ID can be accepted.
Acceptable forms of ID:
* Driver License, ID Card, or Instruction Permit issued by any U.S. state or Canadian province
* Washington Temporary Driver License
* U.S. Military ID
* Official Passport
* Merchant Marine ID
* Washington State Tribal Enrollment Card
A valid ID must show:
* Date of birth
* Signature (except U.S. Military IDs)
* Expiration date (except Tribal Enrollment Cards)
When does my Mandatory Alcohol Server Training (MAST) permit expire?
Class 12 Mixologist Permits and Class 13 Servers Permits are valid for five years. The permits expire on the first day of the month after the month you took your test. For example, if you took the test on Oct. 20, the permit expires on Nov. 1.
To renew your permit, you must successfully complete another MAST course prior to the permit’s expiration date. Class information is available on the LCB Web site at www.liq.wa.gov.
How does Daylight Savings Time affect hours?
Restaurants should change their clocks at 2 a.m. In the fall, you can remain open an “extra” hour when the time “falls back” from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m., if you choose. In the spring, you will need to turn your clock “ahead” an hour from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., not losing any hours of alcohol service.
Can I lock my door while patrons are still inside?
No, your restaurant must remain unlocked and open to the general public if liquor is sold, served or consumed at your business. Contact your enforcement officer for special one-time approval.
When do minors have to be out of my premises if I have entertainment after 11 p.m.?
Restaurants who want to use their dining areas as entertainment venues after 11 p.m. have two options:
1. If a dining area is used as a live entertainment venue after 11 p.m. and alcohol is served, the restaurant must classify the dining area as a lounge and restrict access to adults only.
2. The restaurant may operate its dining area as an entertainment venue after 11 p.m. and allow minors to be present if it provides notice to the LCB 48 hours in advance that sales and service of alcohol will cease at 11 p.m.
During an LCB “sting,” my bartender sold alcohol to the LCB’s underage operative after checking his real ID. How do I minimize the likelihood of a similar violation?
Most compliance check failures come after an employee asked for and looked at ID.
The LCB regularly offers free “Responsible Alcohol and Tobacco Sales” classes with topics such as checking ID. You can also ask your LCB officer about in-house controlled purchase programs, which allow a business to use underage “secret shoppers” to check compliance.
There are also numerous Point of Sale devices that calculate a customer’s age when an employee keys in date of birth or scans the ID.
How can I help my employees follow state liquor laws?
There is no one in a better position to promote compliance than the restaurant’s own management. You should regularly speak with employees about checking ID, refusing sales to apparently intoxicated patrons and other liquor laws. It is imperative that you have written policies addressing your expectations. If you see an employee merely glancing at ID or serving someone who looks intoxicated, intervene and remind them of your expectations. Your LCB officer can answer any questions about liquor laws. By consistently following state liquor laws and your own policies, you can minimize liability to yourself, your employees and your customers.