What Happens If a Bar or Restaurant Serves Alcohol to a Minor? 

 April 13, 2015

By  LMW Attorneys

For bar and restaurant owners in Florida, getting your liquor license can be a challenge in itself. The last thing you want is to throw it all away for selling alcohol to a minor. To avoid the issue altogether and to make sure your establishment is serving alcoholic beverages in a legal and safe manner, take a few minutes to educate yourself on the law surrounding serving alcohol to minors.

Was your bar or restaurant charged with serving alcohol to a minor in Port Richey, FL?
Call us at (727) 478-4125 or schedule a free legal consultation with an attorney to discuss and understand your legal options.

If a Minor is Served Alcohol, Who is Legally Responsible?

It is illegal in the state of Florida for any adult to knowingly serve alcohol to a minor. Anyone who provides or sells alcohol to a minor can be held responsible for any injuries or damages that result from the minor’s impaired state. Various factors go into determining who exactly is responsible for serving the underage person, but separate penalties can be given to the person who holds the liquor license (the owner of a bar) and the person who makes the sale (the bartender who serves a minor.)

What is the Fine for Serving Alcohol to a Minor

The person who makes a sale can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which can result in a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

The license holder can face similar charges, which grow more serious with each offense. Most of the time, the first offense at an establishment will result in a warning, fine or a temporary suspension of the liquor license. More serious infractions can result in the liquor license being revoked.

What If a Minor Uses a Fake ID?

In most cases, someone who is licensed to sell liquor is only liable for selling to a minor without asking for identification. If a bartender, waiter, or bouncer asks for identification and the minor provides a realistic looking ID that says he or she is 21, no charges will be filed against the establishment. However, the word “realistic” is key. If it is obvious that the ID is a fake or does not belong to the person presenting it, the establishment may still be liable for serving the minor.

For more information about serving alcohol to a minor with a fake ID, check out our blog: What Happens if I Serve Liquor to Someone with a Fake ID?

What If You Served Alcohol to a Person Under 21 Because Your Coworker Checked the ID?

As a bartender or server, you are responsible for checking the ID of your customers, even if another coworker has already checked it. This includes if a manager, server, bartender, bouncer, doorman, or security guard already checked their ID.

So if you served alcohol to a minor after a coworker checked the ID, you, the seller, will still be liable for the violation.

If a Guest Permits a Minor to Drink Alcohol at a Licensed Establishment, Who is Responsible?

While food is still being served, minors are typically allowed to sit at the tables in the bar section of a restaurant, but not at the bar itself.

If a guest allows a minor to drink alcohol, the licensee is liable.

How to Avoid Selling Liquor to Minors

Checking the ID of every person who enters your bar, or anyone who orders an alcoholic beverage at your restaurant, is the best way to avoid penalties for serving minors.

Majority of police stings that are set up to catch bouncers and bartenders serving underage patrons are designed to catch those who do not ask for ID. If you are concerned about being able to determine the authenticity of an ID, you can purchase a scanning device to help. However, keep in mind that some fake IDs are made well enough to pass through these devices undetected.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?

If the prosperity of your establishment has been jeopardized because a member of your staff sold liquor to a minor, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney immediately. A lawyer can help you keep your liquor license intact or help to get it back if it has already been revoked. At Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A., located in Port Richey, Fla., our experienced attorneys are here to fight for the people of Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando or Citrus counties. Call today or schedule a free consultation online.