The newly-appointed director of the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control said he never thought a policy he set two months on checking ID’s would get so much attention.
In May, Liquor Control Department Director Robert Dorfman changed a County liquor store policy to require store clerks to check all customers’ IDs before they purchase alcohol, no matter how old they appear to be. Dorfman said the DLC received many complaints, mainly from members of the County’s senior population who said the policy needlessly burdened them with ID checks.
“There has been a lot of push back on the part of very elderly people,” Dorfman said of the County new, stricter ID checking policy.
In early June Dorfman amended the policy giving County liquor store clerks discretion to not request IDs from people who are “obviously” older than 21 years. Dorfman did not clarify what he meant by “obviously” older than 21 years old, admitting his policy was vague.
Dorfman said the County’s strict policy to ID almost everyone is not just about stopping those not yet of age from buying alcohol, but to prevent a potential accusation of racial discrimination.
“The last thing I need to have was someone unintentionally causing what may be a discriminating event,” Dorfman said.
Dorfman said, in his experience in the restaurant and bar business, that people have claimed racial or ethnic profiling when they were asked to present an ID to a clerk, bartender or waiter. He said he wanted to remove any ambiguity in the ID checking process.
The County’s previous policy was to only check ID’s for people who looked age 35 or younger and to not bother carding people who looked older. Bur Dorfman said the policy left the County open to accusations of racism, given a clerk may card someone of one race, but not ID a similar-aged person of another.
County Executive Ike Leggett appointed to Dorfman head the DLC back in December citing his private sector experience. Before he was the director of the DLC, Dorfman was an executive at Marriott International and franchisee of several Five Guys Burger and Fries restaurants.
After he came to office Dorfman promised to make the County run DLC that owns and distributes all the liquor in the County, more business friendly.
This legislative session, State Del. Charles E. Barkley sponsored a bill that eventually passed the General Assembly that will allow for contracts for beer and wine stores to sell liquor.
“I think it will allow the retails to grow and I think they will sell a little more,” Barkley said.
While the State’s law will allow for the County to open privately run liquor stores, Dorfman, said the County wont start awarding contract until at least 2018, saying the DLC only wants to private liquor stores to open in places where there is a need.
“The original was intended to satisfy those residents who may be currently inconvenienced,” Dorfman said.
Dorfman said the DLC is assembling a task force to determine criteria for the private contracts to sell liquor. Dorfman said the contracts would likely go to beer and wine stores that are distant from one of the County’s 27 liquor stores.