Hooters Cards An 80-Year-Old Customer, Refuses To Serve Him Liquor

Hooters customer Charles Johnson

When Charles Johnson ordered an alcoholic drink with his lunch at a Hooters in Florida, the server asked for ID. Johnson didn't have any, so called for the manager of the Jacksonville location, who reportedly said that it was restaurant policy: Anyone who asks for alcohol has to show proof of age. Johnson said that he stormed out, offended, and vowed to never return. "I haven't been asked for ID since I was 35 years old," Johnson told local TV station WTSP. "I am 80 years old."

Places that serve alcohol to minors face harsh penalties, from the suspension of a business's liquor license to steep fines for the seller, and even a permanent criminal record. And while these laws have been around for decades, the police seem to some to have become more vigilant in the past few years about enforcing them. So some businesses have become more vigilant, too, even if that means refusing a person as old as air conditioning. (Air conditioning was invented in 1932, according to About.com, the same year that Johnson was born.)
Joseph Villanueva, an attorney in Westchester County, N.Y., says that in the past 24 months he's received more phone calls from businesses seeking help against police charges than in the past five or six years.

"I think because of the amount of undercover stings that take place, you will definitely see most businesses now conducting these types of ID checks," Villanueva says about requiring proof of age from any customers, regardless of how old they look.

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Some Hooters restaurants have been busted recently in decoy operations. Police caught a San Bruno, Calif., Hooters serving alcohol to a minor this summer. And in 2010, a Hooters in Colorado Springs paid a $533 fine and lost its liquor license for 12 days for giving alcohol to a minor and a visibly intoxicated person.

Hooters could not be reached for comment about its policy, and how long it's been in place. But the "delightfully tacky yet unrefined" chain (which is how Hooters bills itself) is certainly not alone in demanding ID from all its drinking customers.

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Whenever a cashier at the big box store, Target, swipes an alcoholic beverage, he or she must scan the customer's driver's license or another state-issued, valid, picture ID to allow the purchase to go through (alternatively, a supervisor can manually type in the details). This happens "regardless of age," says Target spokeswoman Jessica Deede.

Another chain restaurant, Applebee's, only requires patrons who appear 30 or under to show ID at their company-owned outlets, according to spokesman Dan Smith, and gives that as a guideline to their franchises too.

Villanueva says that blanket policies are "prudent," but some obviously-of-age Americans don't agree. Elderly people who no longer have a valid driver's license may be particularly irked by these rules, while others are simply ticked off to have their adulthood called into question by folks who hardly appear to be adults themselves.

One grandmother in Britain
marched out of her local corner store in a fury when the clerk refused to sell her a bottle of whiskey unless she produced a picture ID, even though she had her over-60 bus pass and a pacemaker certificate.

Charles Johnson claims that he will never go back to the Hooters in Jacksonville's Baymeadows area again -- or any other Hooters for that matter. He refuses to give a place his business, he told WTSP, if it fails to use "common sense."

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