In Search of Suds

*What's the real story behind the alcohol law?

When I heard that my legal Texas driver's license would no longer allow me to purchase alcohol in the great state of Massachusetts, I was disgusted--and a bit distraught. Walk into Christie's and an ominous sign greets all ye who imbibe: "...only valid Massachusetts Driver's Licenses or Massachusetts I.D.s will be accepted..." Should you happen to carry around your passport or military I.D., you can legally buy alcohol until the end of the month. Whoopee.

What the hell is going on here? Who would dare pass a law prohibiting adults over the age of 21 from buying alcohol in Massachusetts, even with a valid out-of-state driver's license? This is, after all, the United States of America!?

The sympathetic manager of Cardullo's, Victor M. Chavez, was quoted in Monday's Crimson: "It doesn't make any sense. But we have to follow the law." "We already have people upset," he explained. You're darn tootin'--I'm one of them.

It took me 21 long years to earn one of those precious pieces of plastic. And upon returning to the People's Republic of Cambridge, I discover that my otherwise-valuable document has become worthless.

A friendly woman at the Cambridge Liquor License Commission assured me that it was indeed against the law to buy alcohol without some form of Massachusetts identification, and she suggested that I simply buy a Massachusetts Liquor Identification card. It would cost only "about $25" and a simple trip to the Registry of Motor Vehicles--along with a birth certificate.


Of course, a less-than-friendly woman at the Registry of Motor Vehicles informed me that she had never heard of the so-called "Liquor" I.D. card. She did know, however, about Massachusetts driver's licenses ($33.75 including a road test) and Massachusetts state I.D. cards ($15).

So I turned to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC), the guys who are supposedly responsible for enforcing Massachusetts state alcohol laws. "What's the deal with the new liquor law?" I queried. Chief Investigator Maurice Delvendo quickly assured me that there is no new liquor law--1, like many others, was confused.

Evidently, the Massachusetts state government passed a temporary law for the summer which allowed passports to be accepted as a valid form of I.D. State lawmakers wanted to ensure that tourists visiting the World Cup would not be deprived of their favorite beverages.

So, on October 1st the state alcohol law will revert back to the way it's always been. Yet that still causes confusion, since the long-standing state alcohol policy mandates a Massachusetts driver's license or Massachusetts state 1.1) as the only valid forms of identification for the purchase of alcohol. Hence the sign which appears in Christie's and elsewhere.

Yet the ABC's Delvendo made it clear to me that is in fact legal for establishments in Massachusetts to accept out-of-state driver's licenses--they just aren't required to. As Delvendo put it, "they do so at their own peril." If bars, liquor stores, or convenience stores are caught accepting a fake driver's license, they will be prosecuted and can lose their vital liquor license. So businesses must be very careful when accepting out-of-state I.D.s. But that's the way it's always been.

And a member of the notoriously eagle-eyed and eminently knowledgeable staff of the Harvard Provision Company along with sources at Blanchard's and the Crimson Sports Grille, assured me that students over 21 years old with valid I.D.s will have no trouble buying whatever they're willing to pay for.

So, cheers.

Brad Edward White's column appears on alternate Wednesdays.