Alcoholic Beverages Division creates new tool to verify IDs

The app includes links to online training and a calendar. Since the app went live, it has had 2,700 interactions.


David Harmantas

In this composite photo, businesses line Clinton St. in Iowa City on a summer evening. Tuesday, September 12, 2017.

Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division has rolled out a new smartphone app to use as a tool to verify the age of customers seeking to purchase alcohol or tobacco products.

Division spokesman Jake Holmes said the app, which includes a calendar and an ID scanner, was developed after the agency stopped producing physical calendars.

“In 2018, we decided not to produce those anymore because they were too costly,” Holmes said. “We wanted to come up with another solution because they were really popular.”

The idea started as just a digital calendar on a smartphone app, but the Alcohol Division wanted to improve it with links to online training courses and to go even further with the ID scanner. The scanner feature looks at an ID’s barcode and determine its validity.

“We intend it for retailers in the state just because we stopped sending those calendars and to help them follow the law,” he said. “Having it on a mobile phone and easy-to-use app, we want to get it out to as many people as we can.”

We just want to say that while we think it is a very good tool, it’s simply a supplemental tool, it doesn’t replace the necessary steps and actual evidence that you’ll need to determine age.

— ABD spokesman Jake Holmes

The technology is not an entirely new frontier; retailers such as Hy-Vee are equipped with barcode scanners for IDs.

Drake University tested the program at its home basketball games, and Holmes said officials there praised the app’s simplicity and efficiency.

“So far, all the feedback we’ve gotten has been positive,” he said.

Since the app went live, he reported, the scan function has been used 2,700 times.

“We’re still trying to send out communications to retailers and law enforcement to get people familiar with it,” Holmes said.

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Derek Frank, the public-information officer, said after trying it out himself, he thinks the app could be a great benefit to local retailers as long as it is used as just a tool.

“I think it’s just another good tool for people to be able to use to confirm and not put themselves in a position where they’d get a citation,” Frank said.

Nora Corry, front of house manager of restaurant and bar the Mill, said the app could be a good tool for bars with such disadvantages as low lighting.

Corry also said using the app could cut off the interaction a server or bartender would have with the customer, and the tool could be better suited for someone such as a bouncer or a position that is not so focused on customer service.

“I think it’s good for bars known for having underage people,” Corry said.

Holmes said the Alcohol Division is working on ways to improve the app as well, such as making adjustments for state ID scans that have issues and using software updates. He also stressed the importance that the app is just a tool to make sure alcohol and tobacco are not being sold to underage customers.

“We just want to say that while we think it is a very good tool, it’s simply a supplemental tool; it doesn’t replace the necessary steps and actual evidence that you’ll need to determine age,” Holmes said.