Committees held at former MSCT on Michigan
By Brandi Makuski
City leaders on Monday will consider whether to impose a new social hosting ordinance.
The proposed new law, according to former Police Chief Kevin Ruder, would be aimed at house parties and other venues where underage drinking occurs.
“I think what we’re seeing are several instances in some situations where underage drinking causes disruption in residential neighborhoods,” Ruder said in early March. “And it’s always a safety risk for all involved.”
The draft proposal mirrors similar ordinances in nearby municipalities, according to City Attorney Andrew Beveridge, who said he was asked by the local AODA Task Force to bring the issue up for consideration before the City Council.
“Essentially what it looks to correct is the situation where there’s underage people drinking in a house or apartment, and the owner or tenant says, ‘Well, I didn’t provide them the alcohol’,” Beveridge said. “Currently there’s no means to hold that person responsible.”
Beveridge also said the ordinance would extend to parents who allow their minor children and minor friends to drink alcohol in their homes.
“A lot of times you’ll see parents who say they want to make sure their kids are safe, so they allow the parties and whatnot to occur inside their home,” Beveridge said.
But Beveridge, along with interim Mayor Gary Wescott, said the proposal was not targeting landlords.
“If I were the landlord and you were my lessee, you would be responsible because you have control of the property,” Wescott said. “You, as the tenant, would be responsible. Underage drinking is such an issue with this university, this community, but it’s certainly not unique- it happens everywhere. This is another tool for us to help curb that.”
According to interim Police Chief Marty Skibba, city police issued a total of 79 underage drinking citations between September, 2014 and mid-March of 2015. Only 12 of those violations occurred inside local taverns, he said.
Fines proposed under the ordinance range from $300-$2,000 each, plus court costs and any court-ordered alcohol assessments, Beveridge said. Those fines can be more than double those imposed for an OWI citation- an irony he said wasn’t lost on his office.
“I would certainly consider operating while intoxicated to be a much bigger threat to public safety than an underage individual drinking inside a residence,” he said.
City leaders will have the final say over the guidelines in place, Beveridge said, adding the dollar amount of the fine would depend on a number of variables.
“It would be reasonable to look at it a little differently if there’s a 20 year-old drinking versus a 14 year-old, as well as the level of intoxication of the person, that sort of thing,” he added.
The proposed ordinance is coming before the city’s Public Protection Committee on Monday at 6 PM in the former Mid-State Building, 933 Michigan Avenue.