When Business School senior Weilong Song arrived at Buffalo Wild Wings on State Street on his 21st birthday two years ago, he planned to have a celebratory drink with a group of friends.
After ordering his drink, however, his Hungarian ID was taken by the manager for further examination.
“I showed him my ID, and he said he wanted to take a better look at it, so he took it,” Song said. “And then he came back, and he told me that unfortunately they cannot accept the ID because he cannot read what it says and he cannot verify that this ID is legitimate.”
Song said his friends tried to convince the manager the ID was government issued, and even pulled up a Google image of a Hungarian ID for the manager to compare to the card Song presented. Upon comparison, the manager finally accepted Song’s ID and served him the drink.
“He took my ID and kind of compared the two and he said, ‘Alright whatever,’ and he kind of gave me a very weird look,” Song said. “I didn’t feel very well (treated), considering it was my 21st birthday, and we were with a big group of people.”
For Song and many international students lacking United States identification, this experience of additional ID examination isn’t uncommon when entering bars and ordering drinks at restaurants.
Engineering senior Dhruv Madeka wrote in an e-mail interview that his driver’s license from India has been refused at many local restaurants and bars.
“I’ve been rejected at Ashley’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and The Heidelberg,” Madeka wrote. “More often than not, bars tend to reject my ID.”
According to Jerome Higgins, manager of Ashley’s on State Street, his business does not always refuse international IDs, but if the ID presented does not match up to the picture in an international ID book, the bar will refuse customers and suggest they get an alternate form of identification.
Similarly, Aaron Allen, a manager at Buffalo Wild Wings on State Street, said the restaurant currently has an international ID book employees can use to prove the IDs are legitimate. Allen said if the ID is not posted in the book, which Song’s ID may not have been, the restaurant will refuse customers if they cannot find a comparable image online.
However, Allen and Higgins said their respective restaurants will accept passports from international students as a form of identification. According to Higgins, Ashley’s typically accepts passports since the staff can verify their legitimacy with more ease than other forms of international identification.
“Passports are a little harder to forge I think,” Higgins said. “International IDs — we have no idea what we’re looking at half the time.”
Song said he realizes that carrying his passport to bars and restaurants would ease the difficulties in verifying his age, but doing so would be difficult and risky.
“Most of the (local bars), what they said is that if you have the passport, that is absolutely OK,” Song said. “But why would you carry a passport with you every day? If I lose it, it’s such a hassle to replace it.”
Michael Gradillas, manager of the Blue Leprechaun pub on South University Avenue, said the restaurant accepts passports, but he prefers international students to try and obtain a Michigan ID.
“My best advice would be to try and obtain a state ID from Michigan,” Gradillas said. “If they don’t want to do that or can’t do that, just bring their passport and any other identification that can support that.”
Gradillas recognizes the inconvenience this poses to international students, but he said he believes it ensures the Blue Leprechaun remains lawful in its practices.
“We’ve gotten a lot of fake international driver’s licenses before,” Gradillas said. “…We are just trying to protect ourselves and make sure the people are who they say they are and the IDs aren’t fake.”
While Madeka, the Engineering senior from India, wrote that he understands the prevalence of fake international IDs on campus and why bouncers need to scrutinize his ID, he wrote that they should be better trained at verifying international IDs.
“Most international IDs contain smart card chips that are incredibly difficult to falsify and numerous other checks,” Madeka wrote. “Even a basic education in these matters could go a long way in making matters more convenient for international students.”
Song also said he understands the difficulties local bars and restaurants face as far as verifying international IDs. Though it may take extra time for him to order his drinks or enter bars, he said he feels for the most part that the businesses treat him with respect.
“Sometimes I do feel like I’m getting a different kind of treatment because they just take much more time to look at it,” Song said. “But for most of the time I think they’re doing a great job.”
Nonetheless, Song said he is considering making the process easier by obtaining a form of identification from the United States.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about getting a U.S. ID or license so it’s not so much of a hassle and to make things easier for me and for them,” Song said.