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In my county alcohol sales are until 2am Monday-Thursday, Friday-Sunday 3am. I was recently at a local convenience store and was refused service due to the franchise owner having a lock on computers to not allow the sale of alcohol after 2am but before 3am on a Friday night . Am I wrong to to feel as though that is a discriminatory practice?

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    Discriminatory in what way? Surely the franschisee refuses sales to all customers due to the computer lock. And they are not obliged to sell alcohol at all. Dec 2, 2023 at 18:45
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    Most (all?) alcohol license laws saw that they cannot sell after a certain time, not that they must sell up until that time.
    – Damila
    Dec 2, 2023 at 23:58

3 Answers 3

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Assuming US jurisdiction.

Most forms of discrimination are not illegal. In fact some forms of discrimination are mandated by law! They are only illegal if they are used against protected classes as defined by law. So, for example, a retailer can absolutely refuse to sell you alcohol if they think you are already intoxicated (and in fact they are required to do so). They cannot refuse to sell you alcohol because you are active duty military or a military veteran. The list of protected classes varies from state to state and city to city.

In this case you state that they didn't serve you because the computers locked down at 2am. That would seem to establish that it wasn't due to some personal characteristic of yours, so it wouldn't be illegal discrimination. In fact it hardly seems like discrimination at all since it would apply to all customers. At worst it seems like poor customer service.

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    Saying "the computers have locked down" to a (possibly) inebriated customer is more tactful than "You are drunk". Dec 2, 2023 at 19:17
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    Notably, while "age" is a protected class, it is at the same time a required form of discrimination for the sale of alcohol. (Just with different cut-offs)
    – MSalters
    Dec 4, 2023 at 16:17
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As a general rule, discrimination is only illegal when it is … well, illegal. We discriminate all the time and it is perfectly legal. I invite some people into my home and don't invite others. That is discrimination. When a company hires someone for a job, they interview multiple applicants and select only one, clearly, they are discriminating between the applicants.

Discrimination means "treating people differently". No more. No less.

It is only illegal when there is a law against it, and usually such a law

  • only applies in specific contexts (e.g. employment)
  • and only forbids discrimination based on certain protected characteristics (race, religion, sex, …)

For example, if I don't want to be friends with black people, that is discrimination. Skin color is also a protected characteristic. But "being friends with" is not a context covered by anti-discrimination law. This makes me a racist dick, but doesn't make what I am doing illegal.

If, however, I don't want to hire black people, that is a different story: it's still discrimination, it's still protected, but in this situation, it is also a context that is specifically covered by anti-discrimination law. So, now, it is illegal. Oh, and of course, it still makes me a racist dick.

As a general rule, I can decide to sell or not sell you my private property based on any reason or no reason at all.

There are exceptions to this general rule, of course, but they don't apply in this case. For example, if you have a monopoly on an essential service, you cannot refuse to sell this service, e.g., if you are the only electricity provider in town, you have to provide electricity to everyone.

The most well-known exception is that if you offer goods and/or services to the general public, then you cannot discriminate based on a specific set of protected characteristics (e.g. race, religion, sex).

However, none of these exceptions apply:

  • Alcohol is not an essential service.
  • (I assume) this store does not have a monopoly on alcohol.
  • They didn't refuse you service based on you being black, a woman, homosexual, a muslim, or any other protected characteristic.

In fact, the whole discussion about whether or not discrimination is illegal in this case is moot, since there is no discrimination in the first place! As you said, the computer is locked down, so nobody gets alcohol. In other words, everybody is treated the same, which is the opposite of discrimination.

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Your description of the facts is not sufficiently clear: I assume you do not mean that the store refuses to sell alcohol between 2am Thursday and 3am Friday, and does sell alcohol thereafter – it would be against the law to sell alcohol between presumably 2am and 6am Thursday (maybe 8am, you don't say what the start time is). I assume the question is whether the policy of not selling alcohol from 2am to 6am is discriminatory. It is, and it is not only legal, it is mandatory. The law itself discriminates (against those wishing to purchase alcohol between 2am and 6am). Not all discrimination is illegal, and non-discrimination is illegal in cases where the law mandates discrimination.

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    I believe the question was on a night that alcohol sales are prohibited after 3 am, can the store stop at 2 am.
    – Damila
    Dec 2, 2023 at 23:57
  • A "Friday Night" is the night of Friday to Saturday, which is in the "Friday to Sunday" period, which OP says to allow alcohol sales between midnight and 0300 on Saturday and Sunday, while it is midnight to 0200 on the other days of the week. The question, as stated by OP, is if not selling at 0230 on a Saturday is discriminatory.
    – Trish
    Dec 3, 2023 at 8:39

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