UW-Madison scanner program to benefit local retailers

July 9, 2008 By John Lucas

UW-Madison is partnering with a group of downtown businesses in a high-tech effort to combat underage drinking.

Seven downtown Madison liquor stores and one grocery recently accepted the university’s offer to participate in an electronic identification scanner pilot program, says Dawn Crim, acting special assistant to the chancellor for community relations.

By participating, the businesses will receive, at no cost, a $1,000 Tokenworks ID scanner unit that will help retail clerks ensure that patrons attempting to purchase alcohol or tobacco are of legal age.

The system is simple to learn and easy to use. As part of the ID check process, clerks will swipe the prospective buyer’s driver’s license or state ID and receive immediate feedback on age verification and whether the ID is authentic.

The scanner isn’t designed to replace the normal store carding procedure, but to help supplement it by giving clerks and owners a new tool to verify age and spot fake IDs, Crim says.

The idea behind the program comes from the Wisconsin Union, which has used similar models since 2007. Up to 15 of the units are in use in retail and catering operations at Memorial Union and Union South, leading the university to offer to make the units widely available downtown.

“We have found that the scanners add to best-practice principles for good, responsible beverage service and sales,” Crim says. “Scanners alone are not a silver bullet. This is one part of our ongoing effort to support the Alcohol License Density Plan and the Downtown Safety Initiative.”

Katherine Plominski, city alcohol policy coordinator, says, “Licensed establishments are responsible members of the community and they want to do the right thing. But with the number and quality of fake IDs that are out there, it can be difficult to know what’s real and what’s not. This program is a valuable addition.”

UW-Madison has invited “Class A” licensed establishments, including liquor stores and groceries, within the bounds of the alcohol license density plan to participate. UW–Madison has also extended the offer to new bars, newly transferred licenses and bars that are facing disciplinary action relating to underage drinking, all within the density plan boundaries.

The project is being funded through the contributions of the UW Police Department and the Office of the Chancellor.

“We’re committed to working with the community on underage drinking issues, and would urge other businesses to begin using scanners,” Crim says. “We want to thank everyone who is participating for their efforts.”

After speaking with Crim, the Madison Mallards have also adopted a similar practice, using scanners during 2008 home games at Warner Park.