Ask the Legal Expert

    Access to Bars and Restaurants by People Under Age 21

    By Dr. Decateur Reed
    Professor at Boise State University


    I’m a 20 year old student at Boise State University. Elaine, my roommate, was in a sour mood one day and maliciously pointed out that guys seem to go out only once with me, then refuse to seek a second date or even call me. I was offended that Elaine would bring this hurtful topic up since it was common knowledge this is a sensitive subject. I believe that guys are put off by my aggressive crusader-for-causes style. My last date was with 23 year old Kyle who loved to party. He strategically planned to take me to a bar with a party atmosphere to “loosen me up” before really getting to know me. As we approached the entrance to the bar, I noticed a sign prohibiting entry to persons under 21 years of age and I was denied entry. Kyle, persistent in his belief that the “right” atmosphere was crucial in order to get me to relax, took me to a restaurant that had a bar as part of the business. How come I am not allowed in a bar, yet am allowed in a restaurant that has a bar? Isn’t that inconsistent?

    Seeking the Truth,



    Under Idaho statutory law, it is illegal for persons under the age of 21 years to enter into, remain in, or loiter in establishments that are licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises. Additionally, it is prohibited for persons under the age of 21 years to be in such places that store alcohol, and alcohol-related supplies and equipment. The bar that denied you entry falls within this definition.
    Idaho statutory law contains a significant access exception. If a business is operated as a restaurant that has obtained an endorsement allowing for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, then persons under the age of 21 years are permitted to enter and remain on the premises. To qualify as a restaurant, the business must have a kitchen and cooking facilities for the preparation of food that is regularly served to the public as its purpose. The additional, and arguably collateral, purpose of serving alcohol is licensed through the endorsement. The restaurant that allowed you entry falls within this definition. A restaurant that has the endorsement for the sale of alcohol is not required to separate the restaurant area from the bar area through partitions, walls, or doorways. However, partitioning the areas is permitted if the business chooses to have such a separation.



    This article is designed for readers to ask a variety of legal questions to an expert in the legal field. If you have a question you’d like to ask, please send background details and the question you’d like answered to Dr. Reed’s e-mail This article is intended as a general review of various legal issues. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for comprehensive legal advice. The information contained in this article is strictly the opinion of the author.






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