The owner of a Lawrence restaurant has done something that should have been started a long time ago.
After an underage customer used a fake ID to buy beer at Bigg’s BBQ in Lawrence, the restaurant got stuck with a $500 fine. On the other end of the violation, the customer succeeded in obtaining a plea agreement that reduced his offense and resulted in him paying fines and court fees of $452.
It just didn’t seem right to Bigg’s owner Doug Holiday that failing to detect what probably was a pretty good fake ID should result in a bigger fine for the restaurant than it did for the person who committed the offense. So he decided to file a lawsuit in small claims court to recover his $500 from the 20-year-old customer.
The case has gotten more than the usual attention because producers of “Judge Judy” selected the case to be argued on the syndicated television show. The outcome of the case won’t be announced until the episode airs, but Holiday already has gotten the attention he was seeking for an issue that he thinks city officials should address.
Holiday is right that fines for using a false ID should be large enough to act as a deterrent for underage customers. It’s not fair for businesses that make a good faith effort to check IDs and occasionally are fooled by high-quality forged drivers licenses to end up paying a higher price than the actual offender.
Holiday’s suggestion was that a mandatory fine should be set for people who use false driver’s licenses. That may not be the most practical solution, but after hearing about the case, Mayor Rob Chestnut agreed that the city should look at whether current fines provide a sufficient deterrent. As Chestnut also noted, the fact that the city has had several serious alcohol-related incidents involving young people recently makes this a good time to look at the ID issue.
In the meantime, we hope Judge Judy decides this case in Holiday’s favor. The customer who passed the false ID carries the majority of the blame for this incident and should have to reimburse the restaurant for its loss.
If other restaurant owners pursued the same action it might act as a deterrent to other underage customers tempted to use false IDs to drink illegally.