Checking customer IDs a challenge for liquor staff in the COVID era

Liquor Store clerks and managers discuss the necessary protocols to ensure they are selling to a legal adult while dealing with the widespread COVID-19 virus

Can I see your ID? Mackenzie Clearsky, left, asks for a valid proof of photo ID from a customer on Sept. 21, at Liquor Depot Westbrook in Calgary. Clearsky has been working as a sales associate at Liquor Depot Westbrook for the past 11 months. (Photo by Harpreet Kaur/The Press).

Checking photo IDs can be a challenging task during COVID-19, according to Mackenzie Clearsky, a Calgary liquor store employee.

In Alberta, anyone who appears to be under the age of 25 needs to show a valid proof of photo ID as an age proof before buying alcohol.

The Face Coverings Bylaw took effect Aug. 1 in Calgary for safety and protection reasons during COVID-19. It requires the wearing of face coverings or masks in indoor public areas and public vehicles.

“Before Aug. 1, I had lots of customers who had face masks on, but after Aug. 1, I noticed everybody had it on and it made it much more difficult to tell how old people were,” Clearsky said in an interview.

“I’ve noticed that I’ve been IDing people who are over the age of 40,” she added.

Clearsky said that, initially, she was uncomfortable asking people to take off their masks.

Eventually, Clearsky had to insist due to the difficulty when checking IDs with masks, since she based her suspicions on people’s eyebrows and eye shape.

Managers at liquor stores are also having a tough time supervising their teams for checking photo IDs, following liquor policies, and taking care of all the necessary precautions when asking people to take off their masks.

“Being a responsible manager, I always encourage my employees to follow the company policies along with the government guidelines when looking for IDs, and dealing with the customers wearing face masks,” said Poonamjeet Kaur Sandhu, an assistant manager at Liquor Depot Westbrook in Calgary.

Sandhu said that employees have to pay “extra attention” to their gestures and tone of voice in order to ensure an effective, non-confrontational communication when asking customers to lower their masks.

In spite of all the obstacles and challenges due to COVID-19, liquor stores employees are fully satisfied with working in accordance with The Gaming and Liquor Act of Alberta by not selling alcohol to any underage person.

“We ID under the age of 40, which eliminates all the doubts of selling alcoholic stuff to any underage people,” says Sandhu.

“I’m very confident that I’m not selling to minors,” said Clearsky.

Clearsky explained that expired IDs are not accepted as a valid proof of ID, and she has had to deny the services in such situations.

However, Calgarians fully understand the provincial liquor laws, and try to co-operate with the employees who are working at liquor stores during a pandemic.

“I think it’s both their obligation and the right to ask for ID,” says Jason Devine, a customer.

“I don’t think liquor store employees should be blamed in any way for asking someone to identify themselves so that they don’t get in trouble,” he added.

Devine said that most liquor stores have installed plexiglass, plastic shields, and other elements to ensure that there is no risk to  a  customer from  pulling down a face mask, for just a minute, to show a photo ID.

“If the liquor store, of course, is caught for not following the law and selling liquor to someone who isn’t of age, then they get penalized,” said Devine.

On duty: Mackenzie Clearsky wears a face mask at work on Sept. 21 at Liquor Depot Westbrook, Calgary. Clearsky has been working as a sales associate at Liquor Depot Westbrook for the past 11 months. (Photo by Harpreet Kaur/The Press).