ID check for all alcohol sales mandated by Assembly

Rosemary Shinohara
Marc Lester

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday night approved a law that will require all liquor stores in the city to check everyone's identification before selling them alcohol.

"This is fair," said Dick Traini, one of the original sponsors of identification checks. "It makes all package stores play by the same rules."

The vote was 10-1, with Bill Starr opposing.

The law takes effect July 1.

The Assembly had considered proposals to extend the required identification checks further -- to bars and restaurants -- but decided Tuesday to limit them to liquor stores.

Assemblyman Paul Honeman, who worked on the issue with Traini, said, "It's not a 100 percent fix."

But, Honeman said, "It may be a deterrent to keep people from purchasing alcohol when they shouldn't be."

One point is to catch underage drinkers. Another is to curb the sale of alcohol to people who have had a red-stripe added to their driver's licenses or state identification cards. The red stripe means they have been court-ordered not to buy alcohol, usually due to an alcohol offense like drunk driving.

As of last month, the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles reported there were 486 licenses or state IDs with red stripes issued to Anchorage residents.

Silvia Villamides, executive director of the Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, told the Assembly the mandatory ID checks are too wide in scope, with just 486 red-stripe licenses here.

She said, "Electronic monitoring is the answer."

Assemblyman Chris Birch said he's intrigued by that idea but that the city police chief said there are technology shortcomings with it right now.

He said the passed measure represents the will of the people.

In the April city election, voters favored 2-1 a proposal for mandatory ID checks. The ballot vote was advisory.

City attorney Dennis Wheeler has said he has concerns that state law might conflict with a local law for ID checking. There's a state statute that says liquor establishments aren't obligated to check the identification of someone they suspect may have a red-striped license, he said.

But the Assembly passed the measure anyway.

One person who hasn't been heard from is Mayor Dan Sullivan.

On Tuesday, he declared a potential conflict of interest because he is part owner of McGinley's Pub, which serves both alcohol and food.

The mayor's declaration says he doesn't think he actually does have a conflict because his finances or private interests wouldn't be substantially affected.

But the mayor said pending a decision on his possible conflict by the city Ethics Board he would not participate in any official action regarding the legislation.