The bouncer at Green Street, a popular private club in Trolley Square, refused to accept her state-issued driving privilege card, saying doing so would violate the law.
"He made it very clear that he did not want to let me in," says the 22-year-old college student. "All [the state] is worried about is that I'm 21. I can't get [Green Street] in trouble."
Melissa, who asked that her real name not be used because she is an undocumented resident, says the driving privilege card, which is available to Utahns who aren't eligible for a driver license, is her primary identification, and she previously had never had a problem using it at Green Street or other bars downtown.
Several private clubs around Salt Lake City say they have changed their policy to no longer welcome the Utah driving privilege card as a form of identification because they're under the impression that it's against the law. But a Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (UDABC) spokeswoman says it's not.
Green Street managers say they changed their policy to no longer accept the driving privilege card when they received the winter department newsletter that said, "The Driving Privilege Card is not an acceptable form of identification for proof of age to purchase liquor in state stores and agencies."
The club wanted to comply with the state law, says John Prince, who has owned Green Street since 1992.
"We're under [that] impression because that's what the UDABC" newsletter said, Prince said. Still, club managers say they're looking into the issue.
Department spokeswoman Sharon Mackay says the law only applies to the 38 liquor, wine and beer stores run by the state, as well as to its 93 contractors statewide because the driving privilege card is not recognized as a proof of identification at state agencies.
The law doesn't extend to private clubs, restaurants, taverns or any place with a state liquor license, she says. State law doesn't say that such places even need to check identification cards before entering their establishments, she says. The law requires that they do not sell to people under 21.
"We don't tell them what they can or not accept," she says. "They need to make sure that whatever they're accepting is valid and reliable, so they're not putting themselves in jeopardy of selling to a minor."
The state has issued some 37,300 driving privilege cards since the law was initiated two years ago.
Deno Dakis, general manger of Port O'Call, says that because the card says it is not a form of identification for state agencies the downtown private club usually doesn't accept it unless the person looks older than 35.
"We do exactly what it says . . .. We like to play it safe," Dakis says. "[But] if my liquor compliance officer comes and says it's OK, then I'd take it."
Other managers at establishments, such as Squatters Pub Brewery and the Tavernacle Social Club, say they accept the driving privilege card, mostly because it's a state issued ID.
Regardless of policies about the driving privilege card, Melissa says private clubs should be consistent on what forms of ID they accept. She says the Green Street bouncer she had a conflict with embarrassed her in front of others.
"The way he went about it was just not right," she says.