What does a European tourist who looks younger than 35 have to do to get a drink around here?

What does a European tourist who looks younger than 35 have to do to get a drink around here?

Why Don’t Passports Work as I.D.?

A Swedish Visitor’s Baffling Experience of Santa Barbara Tasting Rooms, Supermarkets, and Nightclubs

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
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Is Santa Barbara’s identification system dysfunctional? Or is it simply not a system at all? I was asking myself this question while trying to use my European passport as identification here in Santa Barbara and no one would accept it.

Santa Barbara is a beautiful town. It has amazing colonial-style buildings, beaches stretching for miles, impressive landscapes, and exquisite dining. A perfect town for tourists; the American Riviera. Well, after reading this story, you might realize that it’s not so tourist-friendly after all. What I am about to tell you illustrates a lack of coordination. Laws and rules are made up by each individual. This can’t be blamed on an individual’s motivation to go their own way, but on too-dim directions and too little governmental sensitivity to what is really happening outside the bubble of state offices and their so-called organization.

In July 20I0, I had just turned 24 years old. Some friends and I were up in Santa Ynez for wine-tasting, and enjoying the breathtaking views of the landscape. Once at the Fess Parker Vineyard, we ordered a wine-tasting session for four.

“Can I see your ID please?” asked the woman behind the counter. Of course, we all said, and showed our European International Drivers Licenses. The woman kindly told us they don’t accept international Driver’s Licenses, if they don’t show weight and hair color.

“Well,” I explained, “in Europe they look slightly different. They have a color picture, height, and social security number.” She would still not accept them. Luckily, we’d brought our European passports, just in case. This time she shook her head and said, “Sorry, no international passports either.” I started to get frustrated. Here we were, tourists from Europe between the ages of 23 and 27 years old, trying to taste wine with the same form of identification that got us into this country through customs and border protection. And we are being denied.

The woman referred to the rules of California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC. I asked to see the manager, who said the same thing and also explained that they don’t ask for ID if guests look older than 35. Excellent! The legal drinking age is 21 and I have to wait until I’m 35, and hope to not look younger then my actual age? It’s complete madness. We left upset. I remember thinking, “Michael Moore: I’ll call you tomorrow. Is this stupidity not something you would love to dig up and put in to light?”

A few days later we were shopping at Albertsons in Goleta, next to Isla Vista. BBQ was on the schedule. Along with chicken, steaks, chips, and coleslaw we were planning to have some beers. I could not believe it when the identical thing happened again. “Sorry, no international passports unless showing hair color and weight description,” said the guy in the register. I asked to see the manager, who just repeated these stupid words again. I tried to ask him what we could do as tourists here then, if not over 35 years old.

“This is discriminating,” I said. “You have no right at all to deny me.” But no, nothing happened and we left. The next day, when we went bowling at Zodo’s in Goleta, I truly thought I was going to explode when the same thing happened. I felt mistreated and trapped in a country without rights, without a functioning structure, and with rules making no sense.

I went straight home and called ABC in California and told them about my experiences. ABC would not listen and blamed it on the specific places where I was denied. I jumped in my car and went to the police station by Camino Real Marketplace. They laughed and said, “Passports are the highest level of identification. You must have met some very confused people.” The police would not help me any further on this case.

Instead, they police recommended that I get a California Identification Card at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The lady at DMV said I could apply for a card, but that we would have to wait one to three weeks for it to be delivered, and then it would only be valid for 90 days (which coincides with the length of a tourist visa). I applied for one anyway. It arrived in the mailbox a few days later, and was valid until 2015! On top of those mistakes, the woman at the DMV had no clue how this ID was supposed to work.

ABC blamed uneducated staff and the police laughed and declared a similar explanation. Meanwhile, Albertsons, Zodo’s, and Fess Parker held ABC responsible. And there I was right in the middle of this dysfunctional organism. No one wanted to help me, and no one took this issue seriously.

Thank god for media, journalism, and the freedom of speech! This might not make any actual difference, but hopefully it can display negative sides of being a tourist in Santa Barbara. It might also bring some insight into what can happen when each individual actor in the market makes up their own rules in a capitalistic society. Is it too many large and scattered units? Or too-big areas to direct and organize? Either way, something must be done and an eye-opener is always a good start.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

It's sad, but sometimes rules with a common sense purpose get so twisted out of proportion, that people are no longer able to make decisions based on common sense. The more rules and regulations we make, the more absurd problems like this we are likely to encounter. It's the result of an over-regulated society.

jfklbj (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2011 at 7:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have observed the same thing several times and our niece from Paris, France — who is 25 years old and went to school here for three months — ran into the same problem at Ralph's downtown. It is so ridiculous and stupid — what better ID can you have than a passport, which brings you through all check points of homeland security and INS.

Santa Barbara's economy depends very much on tourism — and we drive the tourists away with stupidity and ignorance?
These stories will go around in Europe and other countries...

Well, good luck then for the future.

jnm99 (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2011 at 8:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Swedish Consulate should rent out the Wake Center and hold an event to issue Konsulat Registreringen cards to all its citizens here. With these cards, no other ID should be needed.

revisionist (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2011 at 9:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Certainly sounds like a very silly decision, rule-bound, not rational. But state laws about proof of drinking age don't tend to concern themselves with tourism issues--they're simply addressed at preventing underage drinking. Perhaps if the Chamber of Commerce were to lobby for a change in the law, there would be a chance of success. Annoyed young drinkers from outside the US are not a group likely to have much clout in Sacramento. Any pressure would need to come from those who are losing business income from all those drinkers. Let the Chamber of Commerce know your concerns.

mtndriver (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2011 at 10:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It would be an incredibly huge undertaking, but my solution would be to have "international" passports as truly international. Individual countries could still have their national ones, but a "real" international passport would be issued by a world group, with members of countries who wish to join, and the document(s) would be legal in all member countries--maybe like a U.N. Passport.

And, while I myself actually recoil at the extra level of bureaucracy, it might help situations like this.

equus_posteriori (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2011 at 10:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Goodness Lisa is right, this is silly beyond belief.

Reminds me of one time I was on a Swissair flight to Philly; bad weather put us in Newark. No INS folks were prepared to let us deplane... we sat for 1.5 hours waiting... turned out the weather cleared and we took off to Philly 2.5 hours late, at 2am.

The Swissair flight attendants systematically went to each American on the plane (only 3 or 4 of us) and told us their horror stories of being trapped on planes in the US because of our very strict passport laws and absence of INS agents.

So Lisa Halling is right. But I'm glad to purchase drinks for Lisa... message me!

pardallchewinggumspot (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2011 at 5:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The author of this long letter clearly has plenty of Euros to burn in our recessed local economy. Just go to a smart vendor who wants to sell you the booze.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2011 at 6:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Smart" or "Stupid" vendor. Any vendor that sells to a minor risks losing his liquor license. If the vendor doesn't follow ABC guidelines and inadvertanltly sells to minors, he is in violation of the law. Here are the ABC guidelines for ID:

To be suitable as evidence for a defense, the identification card must be issued by a governmental agency and have a current description and a picture of the person presenting it which reasonably describes the person as to date of birth weight, height, sex and color of eyes and hair. No defense will exist if the card has obviously been altered or has expired. A registration certificate issued under the Federal Selective Service Act is no longer considered documentary evidence of age, identity and date of birth. (Section 25660)

A passport WOULD meet the requirements unless it doesn't have all the physical descriptors listed. Then the legal drinking age for those people would be an appearance of age 35 or older. Every bureaucratic moron that makes these rules does so without consideration of the consequences. Hence, we have the situation that the author of this article and I'm sure many others have. I'm sure is costs us in terms of lost legitimate business as well.

jfklbj (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2011 at 11:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I say, bring it into the light! Contact your Embassy and file an offical report. speak with your Embassy Offical and explain that you were Age-discriminated by these three establishments regarding your credetials and that you want your Government to know that the US is in general is discriminating against your Country.
Contact a few local news agencies and your Countries news agency regarding your treatment, file a written complaint against ABC and submit a copy to your Embassy.
Don't let Stupid people get away with their stupity.


dou4now (anonymous profile)
July 24, 2011 at 7:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Gosh, why do we need I.D. if we're only "tasting" the wine? I mean nobody can get impaired in a tasting room, or do they?

As an aside from my gratuitous swipe at the booze/drunk culture, our infrastructure IS really messed up when there is this sort of mass confusion and lack of communication. It seems that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 30, 2011 at 2:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

RE: "insight into what can happen when each individual actor in the market makes up their own rules in a capitalistic society"

When I studied economics in college, we discussed a phenomena called "market failure" when capitalistic competition, or monopoly, does not deliver what people need and want.

But this is a new one on me.

Certainly if charming Swedish women are desirous of apertifs and "rules in a capitalistic society" prevent this natural desire from realization, we should demonstrate the courtesy to our visitors of a thorough revolution! Come, let us storm the Bastille -

May the free flag of Dionysius reign and may the cash registers of our fair city ring with the sound of prosperous 365 day a year tourism; everybody wins but the dour killjoys who fret that somewhere, somebody, somehow or another, is having a good time.

Geof_Bard (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2011 at 3 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I have no problem with what you said Geof, I only ask that when they get impaired from their bacchanilian indulgences that they don't drink and drive.

It's kind of a bummer when cops have to knock on doors and give personal obituaires.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2011 at 9:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess the line "don't drink and drive" is sort of redundant following the line "bacchanialian indulgences", but I made my point.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2011 at 9:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You should check:

As of 1/1/10 Forign passport are allowed to be used as Identification.

wlaketahoe (anonymous profile)
February 12, 2013 at 9:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Industry advisory buisness and professions code section 25660 "Documentary Evidence Of Age and Identity"

wlaketahoe (anonymous profile)
February 12, 2013 at 9:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Frankly it'd be in Santa Barbara's best interest to be a little less tourist friendly and a little more resident supportive.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 12, 2013 at 10:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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