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Green card gets red light at Comerica Park pub

Jennifer Chambers, The Detroit News

Detroit — Immigrants visiting Comerica Park can’t be sure they’ll be allowed to buy an adult beverage if all they offer is a U.S. government-issued green card as proof of age, a University of Michigan grad found out last week.

Pitchers Pub

Detroit resident Palesa Matinde, 25, was denied service by a waitress and ballpark bar manager who refused to recognize her federal permanent resident ID, then rejected a foreign photo ID, before ordering security to escort her and her husband from the establishment, she said.

Michigan liquor license holders, such as Comerica, accept multiple forms of photo identification but are not required to accept specific types.

Matinde, originally from Zimbabwe, was attending a Tigers game against Seattle with her husband, Bobbie Graves, last week when the couple wandered into a watering hole inside the ballpark for a drink.

Palesa Matinde

At the Miller Lite Pitcher’s Pub, Matinde and her husband sat down and ordered: Moscow mules for two.

Matinde, who does not have a Michigan driver’s license, produced her green card, which contains her photo, name, date of birth and other information on the front. Across the top it reads: “United States of America permanent resident.”

“The waitress asked for our order and ID as usual. She looked at my ID and winced at it. She says, ‘Hold on, I will be right back,’ ” said Matinde, who graduated from Michigan in 2014.

Matinde, a marketing specialist, said she uses her green card for all ID-related matters from all alcohol purchases to international travel and has never been refused an alcohol purchase when using it.

When the waitress returned: “She told me, ‘I can’t accept this.’ When I asked why, she said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Matinde said.

Matinde asked to speak to a manager. She was left waiting for 15 minutes. When a manager did appear, Matinde said the woman told her: “We only accept United States government issued ID.”

Palesa Matinde, 25, was turned away at the Pitcher’s Pub.

Matinde pointed out that’s exactly what she had produced, as well as a second form of ID from the Republic of Zimbabwe, and an argument ensued.

Five minutes later, a security guard came over with the manager, who said, “We don’t want them in our establishment,” according to Matinde.

Officials at Comerica Park would not respond to questions on the incident and referred comments to Delaware North Sportservice, the park’s concessions contractor and a privately held company, which acknowledged the encounter.

Victoria Hong, director of corporate communications for Delaware North, said the company limits the acceptable forms of government ID to ensure the company’s compliance with laws and regulations on alcohol service.

“We chose select identification that we believed would cover the largest number of guests. We take the responsibility of serving alcohol to our adult fans very seriously and encourage our workers to err on the side of caution and decline service unless they recognize the form of identification,” Hong’s statement said.

Jeannie Vogel, spokeswoman with Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, said the Michigan Liquor Control Code requires a liquor licensee to make a “diligent inquiry” into the age of the person purchasing an alcoholic beverage.

The inquiry includes “at least” an examination of an official Michigan operator’s or chauffeur’s license, an official Michigan personal identification card or any other “bona fide” picture identification that establishes the identity and age of the individual, Vogel said.

“The Michigan Liquor Control Code makes reference to acceptable types of identification that can be used by licensees, but the list is not all inclusive,” Vogel said in an email.

Asked whether green cards are acceptable, Vogel said the state does not make that determination.

“It’s the licensee and their clerk, server, bartender that has the legal responsibility to make diligent inquiry to determine whether or not the purchaser is of legal age,” Vogel said.

A licensee has the right to refuse service if unable to ascertain the age of the purchaser, Vogel said.

Officials at Olympia Entertainment, part of the Ilitch Holdings family of companies along with the Tigers, said they follow Michigan law on the issue and declined to answer questions about what identification vendors must accept.

Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police said authorities allow any form of government-issued identification for liquor purchases, which includes green cards. 

Matinde said she and her husband, a banker at Quicken Loans and also a Michigan grad, were led out in shock, stunned at the behavior of the bar’s staff.

“This is xenophobia and discrimination,” Matinde said.

Hong of Delaware North said the company trains more than 500 seasonal workers to accurately verify that anyone who orders alcohol is at least 21 years old.

“All associates are required to go through extensive training that includes being able to recognize specific identification and validate a guest’s age,” Hong said.

Hong sent The News a statement on Friday that said Matinde was only asked to leave the restaurant “when she loudly argued with our staff and caused a disturbance.”

Matinde denies raising her voice or causing a disturbance and said she never left her seat inside the bar until the security guard came to escort her and her husband out.

Matinde said the day after the incident, she posted her experience on Twitter and walked over to Comerica Park’s administrative offices to speak to a company representative there.

Matinde said the woman apologized and said officials at Comerica Park recently offered her a Tigers box suite and dinner for the couple and friends. She declined and said she is considering legal action.

“I don’t even want compensation. Money is not the issue. I want justice,” Matinde said. “You cannot treat people like this. In this political environment, people have this confidence that they treat people like they shouldn’t.

“Are you telling me that Miguel Cabrera can’t get a beer after the game?”

Matinde says she wants the public to know about her experience.

“I had only ever read about these things. But they are real. And they are happening right now. In our stadiums and meeting places in America, and nothing is being done about it,” she said.

Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.