Dear PoPville – Bars Not Accepting Paper DC IDs?

Photo by PoPville flickr user ep_jhu

“Dear PoPville,

Has anyone had issues with an official, but paper, copy of a DC ID at area bars? Friday night a group of friends and I were celebrating my birthday and heading to HOGO for some cocktails. A few friends were meeting there, a few had already made it and were saddled up at the bar, the rest of us were arriving from dinner. When I got there my friend was on the sidewalk with a frustrated look on her face. She and my husband were arguing with the bouncer, who claimed that he was also the manager, about her being permitted in with this form of identification even though it reads This paper driver license is valid for 45 days. The paper driver license, including your photo, is acceptable and serves as your driver license until your card arrives in the mail. Carry this paper driver license with you while driving until you receive your driver license in the mail. If you received your driver license within 15 days, please call 311, the Citywide Call Center, or… None of us were even close to 21. Her ID at least identified her age as legal. Oh yeah, and she’s 7 months pregnant too.

He said it wasn’t valid and that she needed a passport. As I understand it, she and her husband just bought a house and were offered some sort of rebate that required them transferring their out of state IDs for DC licenses. Their former IDs got a hole punch through the expiration date and they were issued these temporary paper copies. And not everyone has a passport, much less feels comfortable carrying it around. Some people in our party pressed why do you care, you’re closing in a few months anyway? Another member of our party called the 311 number. When he reported the situation and said the ID holder was 7 months pregnant, the officer laughed. Later that weekend while out with the same friends, her husband used his paper ID all day at Nationals Stadium to buy beer.

So what gives? Is it legal to turn folks away for a paper ID? Does HOGO hate on pregnant non-drinkers? Curious what experiences your other readers may have had.”

88 Comment

  • I had trouble 2 weeks ago in New York getting into a few bars with a paper ID.

    Explaining to the bouncer about my paper ID was painful. I’m not sure why DC outsourced their ID’s in the first place….

    • California did the exact same thing when I moved from DC and changed my license. Part of the new security measures is not being able to manufacture IDs at the DMV.

      • Well in CA’s case, it doesn’t have to do with new security measures. They’ve been issuing temp paper DL for over 20 years…

  • maxwell smart

    “Their former IDs got a hole punch through the expiration date…” Wow. When I moved here from out of state and got a DC license, they took my old one and put it through a paper shredder while I was standing there. No going back at that point I guess.

    • That’s because they could give you a new one right then and there. Since they can’t do that now, they give you back your old one, but with a hole in it. I guess it’s so you can still use it for purposes that require non-paper licenses, but not sure that always works.

    • saf

      When I moved here (1983), it was still legal to have a state license as well as a DC license. Since NYS DLs didn’t have photos in those days, I was glad to be able to have both!

  • I had the same thing happen to me. It’s frustrating because while it should be official, it really just looks like a note that reads “this is a federal ID. love, DC government”

    I just carried my passport for the entire month I waited for my actual license. But I also know I might not be in the majority by having a valid passport to carry.

  • My friend just moved from MD to DC and has used the paper ID fine. In fact, he forgets it a lot and has used the hole-punched old MD ID and people have accepted it. I think this is ridiculous but I do not have any truth as to the legal aspect of it all.

  • I almost had this happen with a California paper id at a restaurant in penn quarter. I had the paper id and my old California id with the hole punch. They tried to refuse it at first but they ended up letting it go. Actually, the only reason I bothered to get a new id was because my old CA id had a very slight bend that never posed any issues anywhere except at SEI, who refused to take it, citing that they’d have to scan it but their scanner was broken. Whatever, walked out and had a great meal and drinks at Jaleo next door.

  • The potential penalties for a bar for admitting/serving without verifying ID are huge. I can’t say I blame the guy for not having memorized all the various kinds of ID, and not wanting to lose his job over accepting a fake one with a good story.

  • Paper IDs are easy to forge with Adobe — that’s why a lot of bars won’t accept them. Police can quickly type in your DL number to make sure it is valid, but bars don’t have that luxury.

    Just carry your passport. If you don’t have one, guess you’re not drinking for a few weeks. There are worse things.

    –A former bartender

    • This comment is correct.

    • OR when the pregnant patron says she’s not going to drink anyway, put an X on her hand and everyone survives the night.

      • still not allowed in the bar without proper identification.

        • that’s the problem though – it IS proper ID, issued by the DMV. this is exactly what everyone predicted and feared when this REAL id stuff came out. Despite the DMV saying that we would all get these interim paper things that would be totally valid, we all feared that they still would not be accepted by bars and TSA, etc. and sure enough, they aren’t being accepted.

    • I’d prefer having someone complain on a blog rather than taking the risk of admitting someone with a fake ID. And paper IDs look fake/can be easily forged, no matter how official they are.

      I’m with HOGO on this one.

      -Former door guy

      • so complain to the DMV. the paper is legal, that’s a fact. or else start posting notices that you don’t actually accept all legal forms of ID, so people had better hope that they get lucky

  • Luckily this didn’t happen to me when I got my DC license in December, but I remember being worried about it because I heard horror stories about bars and other places not accepting it. I didn’t encounter any problems, but then again I think I only had it for two weeks. It is kind of ridiculous that DC gives out a paper temporary license. And I agree not everyone has a passport, nor would I want to carry mine around!

  • I am far, far older than 21. I was carded recently. The bartender took my ID, looked at it, then walked away to consult with the manager. The issue was that my DC drivers license looked fake – it’s off center and cheaply made, like something you did at Kinko’s in a hurry. I’ve gone through all sorts of airports and government buildings but I guess this is the first time someone really looked at my ID.

  • carry a passport, people. If you don’t have a passport, get one.

  • If the police are nearby, it might be worth asking if they can verify it quickly either through the dispatcher or the computer system in the cruiser. Pretty easy and simple for them to do and it happens often in the busy bar/club areas.

    • I had this same thing happen when I first moved to the area (VA) and got a new license. They shredded my license at the DMV and then promised that the paper license would work anywhere. Sure enough, it didn’t work anywhere.

    • +1.

      This happened to a friend of mine at Local 16 (again, well over 21). The manager came out and was absolutely adamant in refusing to let him in. He walked across the street to the police department, had the officers write something up, and the bouncers accepted it.

      So, it does work. And, we all gave him props for being very resourceful.

      A lot of bars simply won’t take the paper ID. They don’t have to, and it limits their liability. This is similar to many bars refusing to accept vertical IDs. Again, they might be totally legit, but if a bar wants to be strict, they’re within their rights to do so. I’d rather have a bar turn down .01% of legit patrons due to ID issues than allow in 1% of underage due to allowing verticals and paper.

      • I should add that his wallet/passport/etc were all stolen. The “BRING A PASSPORT, DUMMY” argument is fine, but it fails to account for this possibility. It takes a while to get all of these things back. All of that sucks enough, as is, without accounting for the fact that basic day-to-day life is made much more difficult by not having identification.

      • And yet there are certain bars in town that will let people in with an “ID” that was drawn with crayons.

      • This makes no sense to me at all. First of all, the OP makes it clear that the paper ID-holder in question didn’t look anywhere near 21, and wasn’t able to drink anyway due to obvious pregnancy. Is it unreasonably to expect bartenders/bouncers to exercise a little common sense and discretion and accepting a paper ID/vertical/whatever if the person clearly isn’t underage and is pregnant to boot? (They certainly do at many places–I rarely get IDed anywhere in this city, and I’m only 25.) This seems like a case where enforcing the letter of the law is carried to absurd extremes. The police are not going to send a 40 year old pregnant lady to test the bar’s ID-checking rigor.

        Also, I’ve never known an underage kid trying to sneak into a bar to use a vertical ID or paper thing. It’s not hard to get a fake ID that looks legit–why on earth would someone use a suspicious looking one?

        • As many others have said, pissing off one pregnant lady is better than getting busted by MPD for lapsing just once. Someone needs to check their privilege at the door and understand that. And actually, yes, MPD could and has sent people of all manner to check stores for cigarette/alcohol sales as well as bars when they get a bug up their ass. I once spent a Friday night in DC lock up (long but true story) and in the clink, met an Ethiopian store owner who got busted for selling cigarettes and beer to a kid he swears looked 40 but was sent in by MPD and was actually 17.

      • And there is a police station a block or two from Hogo.

        Put yourself in their position. If they get caught with someone without ID, they get in trouble. If they are closing, it doesn’t mean the owners might not to open elsewhere later. It was annoying for you; it was a question of legality for them.

  • The “temporary paper ID” they are issuing now is an 8×11 print out of your ID. It looks sketchy and made my wallet super bulky. I carried my passport with me while I was using the paper ID, anticipating this kind of problem. In other states, temporary IDs are the size of the actual ID and are printed on official paper, not basic office paper. The DMV should really give you something to use temporarily that looks like I didn’t just copy it at Kinkos, but bars should also have seen enough of them by now to know they’re legit.

  • As long as you have a federal/gov issued ID, it is acceptable. Passport, driver’s license, state-issued ID card. I think military ID too.
    Temporary driver’s licenses are gov issue and acceptable.

    That being said, wasn’t that a restaurant? Not a 21 and over place? If so, she should have been able to come in and just gotten “x-ed” so she couldn’t drink. Very weird of that place…

  • A few years ago I had trouble with my paper passport at Little Miss Whiskey’s on H Street and the bouncer was very rude about it after I said, “but the other bars out here accepted it” … Something about “Do I look like the other bars?!” … Pathetic response on their part, and I took my money happily somewhere else.

    • Pathetic response? I’d say the same thing about your original statement.

      • Yes, it was an overheated pathetic response from a low-wage dude on a power trip. What else would you expect from a high school drop out?

        • Are you sure the bouncer wasn’t just using the ID an excuse to deny your snotty, entitled, elitist self entry? I’m sure you don’t have the guts to say exactly what you wrote to the bouncer’s face, but it’s likely that your condescending attitude came across anyway.

        • Scrillin

          “high school drop out”

          Most of the doormen at the types of places that Popvillians frequent are either moonlighting or at least have a bachelors. You need to reexamine your prejudices.

    • You didn’t say “actually, yes, you kind of do look quite similar to most bars I’ve been to”?

  • Legal? Yes. I assume it falls under a private establishment’s right to refuse service. Frustrating? That also.

  • This happened to me at jack rose just last week. The bouncer said something about how they had had an issue with it earlier that day… I was very unpleased.

  • As long as you have the ID that has the hole punch AND the paper ID issued by the DMV then it is a valid form of identification. However keep in mind that the club/bar/etc has the right to refuse any ID they don’t find trust worthy. While I understand the frustration of the couple, you can’t really fault the bar… we are not legally obligated to let you just because you have provided a form of identification.

  • 1- please do not ask police officers to do this (I doubt they even would, but don’t ask)
    2- a bar/restaurant can refuse to serve you for any reason. PITA for you, but CYA for them.
    3-carry a passport if this is a concern

    • that’s such a priveleged and specious answer: “just carry a passport.” as if you can just pick one up at the corner store. “just” because some people have alternate ID that can work in the event that their VALID license isn’t accepted doesn’t meant that it’s so easy for everyone to “just” get a passport. they take time and money, “just” the same as a license.

  • I think your real license arrives within like a week – sooooo just hold off on going out??

    • So a cop walks into a bar and asks to see the ID of a woman who is 7 months pregnant… SAID NO JOKE, EVER.

    • Theoretically, it shows up in a week. It took over two weeks for mine to show up and I’ve heard of others waiting nearly a month. Luckily, I had a passport so it wasn’t a huge inconvenience, but I could see it being a big problem for those without alternate forms of ID.

    • Common sense? Get out!

  • you have to carry the whole punched id along with it.

  • HOGO is an absolute dump with the rudest staff I’ve ever encountered in DC (and that’s saying a LOT). I don’t know if this helps answer your question or not

  • Interesting… I (and others) were wondering about this when PoP posted a while ago about the whole “REAL ID” thing and having to go in person to the DMV for a license renewal and then wait for the “REAL ID” to arrive in the mail.

  • I just carried one of my old/expired IDs with me. If you’re getting you DC license updated to reflect a move or something, I think they let you keep the old one. I still have mine. They do, however destroy out of state IDs, but I still have my driver’s license from high school and college. So I would bring the paper ID and the old expired one with me places. That usually always worked. 🙂

    • No, they don’t destroy out of state IDs. I actually have my DC license and two Virginia licenses–one has a hole punch, but still. I have the other one because I had to update my Virginia address when I moved, which I did online for $20 and they sent me the new one.

      • They destroyed my old California i.d. when I switched over to D.C. I specifically asked if I could keep it and was told no.

  • I can understand this problem. I still haven’t received my dc hard license in the mail and it’s been over 30 days. Due to post office and DMV incompetence, I had to clear it up with both of them, making several trips and phonecalls..THANK GOD they actually didn’t take away or hole punch my old license, so i just use that…but ya, i would just carry a passport with you until you receive the real deal.

  • Most banks aren’t taking them either. Mainly because they can easily be forged.
    (a piece of paper with ink vs. the multilayer security of an ID(UV/feel/hologram) can’t really compare…)

    I have a feeling this paper is mostly for anyone working with the DC government(i.e., cops).
    Private places of business have no registery or way of verifying anything from this “official” piece of paper and doubt they want to place their jobs/places of business on the line because the DC gov’t screwed everyone over for a couple weeks. If they are, then it is an exception they are making for you.

  • I carried a DC paper license for the full 45 days and had issues here and there. I think it depends on the establishment and how well they know the laws, I was turned away from a few that said “No, we can only accept official forms of ID and not paper”. I explained that was an official ID issued by DC, but they didn’t care.

  • I find this really funny because I had no trouble with my paper ID, but when I lived in Maryland I went to visit my parents in upstate NY and restaurants hated that one. I think the MD licence looks really really fake, especially when I look at it next to my University’s ID. I was kind of pleased to get the new DC licence because it feels/looks more ‘legit.’

  • go buy some weed for less money …. oh wait your not a teenager.

  • A la “Knocked Up”
    Doorman: You old, she pregnant. Can’t have a bunch of old pregnant bitches running around.

  • +1 for HOGO

    You have a reasonable expectation that your temporary drivers license will work…as a drivers license. You can confidently drive a car, knowing that if a cop stops you there’s a piece of paper proving you’re allowed to drive. Police have a computer and can look it up. Fine.

    You don’t have a reasonable expectation that every person in the city will see a piece of paper and agree to believe that it’s real. Bars stand to lose tons of money or even their liquor license if they serve to under-21s, and they’re not willing to take that risk.

    – 1 for OP

    Weaksauce for bashing a bar with silly talk. “Does HOGO hate on pregnant non-drinkers?” Please. Sorry OP’s friend got embarrassed in front of her friends, but it’s not HOGO’s fault OP’s friend didn’t think it through.

    RE: Pregnant ladies, I think a bar would much rather lose one customer due to an ID mix-up than a dozens of customers who watch them serve booze to a pregnant lady. A fake-looking ID is a red flag, and a pregnant lady demanding to get into a bar combine for a bouncer to run a quick risk assessment: not worth it.

    Unfortunate for everyone involved. Get a passport.

  • Since this is going to be the law of the land for the future, next time you get your passport renewed, also get a passport card that you can carry with you instead of your actual passport. It’s not that much more money. I got one last time I got renewed and I use it for a lot of stuff, especially when traveling. I keep my passport locked up safely and carry the card with me when touristing and whatnot in case there are any issues.

    • Emmaleigh504

      Apparently I’m a moron and treat my passport like a regular form of ID. Why shouldn’t I carry it with me when ever I want? Is there reason it should be in a safe?

      • My passport stays home unless I’m traveling abroad, but as far as I’m aware it’s not something that needs to be locked up in a bank box. I’ve never lost a passport, but my understanding is that if you do lose one, they can be replaced fairly easily.

        • Emmaleigh504

          I like my passport to look a little worn so it looks like I travel all the time 😉

        • Losing your passport is a pain. You have to go through the full application process again, and they send you a nasty letter with your replacement telling you that this is the only time they will give you a new one. If you have another option and can keep your passport somewhere safe when you aren’t traveling, I highly recommend it!

  • A few bars in DC, including the Raven in Mount Pleasant, refuse entry to people who try to enter with PASSPORTS. They claim that DC law requires an individual to have a driver’s license in order to enter a bar. The claim is ridiculous, of course. A passport is sufficient to cross international borders or to board a plane, but not sufficiently reliable to drink at the Raven? And of course, they mainly pull this stunt with immigrants. National origins discrimination, anyone?

    • Raven is an outlier in all of my “most bars in DC” anecdotes. They probably thinks anyone with a passport is probably just going to try to pay with plastic and like be a real pain, man, that’s not cool.

      • saf

        That’s so sad. When I lived over there, the place was mostly full of people WAY darker than me. And it’s owned by an African immigrant!

  • tonyr

    “Some people in our party pressed why do you care, you’re closing in a few months anyway?” – Nice

    Go to Virginia, they accept the first page of the family bible as legal ID.

  • When I changed my address a couple weeks ago, they gave me a paper ID. The paper IDs are ridiculous. I went to the Yes Organic Market near me to buy a bottle of wine and some beer, and they refused to take my ID. I’m in there at least once a week and the cashiers recognize me. Finally a manager came over and OK’d my purchase. I also used it at H St Country Club. I think the bouncer thought it was so ridiculous he couldn’t put up a fight. But the piece of paper is legal, government issued ID. I love DC.

  • justinbc

    “Does HOGO hate on pregnant non-drinkers?”
    Yeah, that’s totally it. Way to ruin any sensibility your post might have actually had. The bar has no way to verify you’re actually pregnant. They’re not doctors, they don’t know what “7 months” looks like, or whether you’re just wearing a fake pregnant belly, or some other scam to gain admittance to the bar. Your comment about them closing soon is irrelevant to their decision making, because you would still be asking them to potentially subvert the law…not a good idea for anyone intending to open up future alcoholic arenas. If you know you’ve got a form of identification that is uncommon, maybe just accept the fact that you’re going to have headaches with it (as many other posters here have indicated happened to them) and not expect the world to just bend over and make exceptions for you because you look pregnant.

    • Speaking of making sensible comments…
      Why would you bring a fake ID to get into a bar and then not drink?
      Why would you fake a belly to get in a bar…and not drink?
      Why would you bring a 8.5×11 piece of paper to get into a bar if you wanted to go in undetected?
      Maybe the patron should carry a picture from her last ultrasound around with proper photo ID next time.

  • As a bar manager, I know that a hole-punched driver’s license is an invalid form of ID. The paper IDs are fine for driving, but to obtain alcohol, I tell all my staff that an additional form of photo ID is required to match the name and picture of the person with the paper ID. As many noted, it’s not difficult to produce a fake temporary ID.

    I would suggest that if you have a temporary paper ID, that you keep you old hole-punched ID as back up and bring both with you whenever you want to purchase alcohol.

    I also want to mention that foreign IDs (other than passports) are also not acceptable. It has to be a U.S. gov’t or U.S. state issued ID.

    • Would you allow your staff to use the invalid hole-punched driver’s license as the second form of ID?

  • The way that I interpret it is that the paper “license” is a valid drivers license and not a valid ID. People above reference CA, I too lived in CA, and when you got the paper license, you could use it as a license but not an ID. The real license serves as both.

  • As the owner of Hogo, I’ve instructed my employees to follow the law. When in doubt err to the side of caution. Sorry if it’s inconvenient but, the law is very clear. If I cannot verify your age as being over 21 with absolute conviction, you will not be allowed in. Tom Brown

    • way to be condescending. as if this was a matter of convenience, like the girl was just too lazy to go home a get the physical card.

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