Alcohol ordinance looking grim
December 8, 2006
Steamboat Springs — A social host ordinance that would hold adults accountable for allowing teens to drink illegally at their homes most likely will not become law.
The ordinance, which has been implemented successfully in San Diego, Calif., would give the Steamboat Springs Police Department a tool to cite adults, parents or property owners for providing a space, either a private residence or rented property, for minors to drink illegally. The ordinance only addresses the issue of adults hosting a party, not providing alcohol to minors.
The ordinance was discussed Thursday at a meeting of the city’s Liquor License Authority. The City Council is the license authority.
Laws already exist that allow police to cite adults for contributing to the delinquency of a minor or providing alcohol to a minor, but police Capt. Joel Rae said there are no laws that allow police to cite adults responsible for hosting parties.
If it is adopted, adults cited for “hosting” a party would be forced to come before the city’s municipal judge to face punishment. The citation would not be criminal and most likely would involve a fine.
But City Council members said the ordinance calling was invasive, confusing and unclear.
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City Council member Steve Ivancie said the council should be more concerned with changing the “social culture” of the underage drinking problem in Steamboat Springs than creating more laws that aren’t easily enforced.
“I see this as the overreaching of government, which government tends to do,” he said. “The real question is, ‘How do we change the cultural norms here? How do we teach our kids to be responsible?'”
Sandy Sharp, a single mother of two children, told the council she was against the ordinance because she did not feel other parents should be responsible for her children.
“We have to teach our children responsibility,” she said. “I don’t want other parents being held responsible for my child drinking. I have to be the bad guy, not some other parent.”
Passing more legislation is not the answer to the underage drinking problem, she said.
“I think passing this ordinance would set a very dangerous precedent,” she said.
Not all parents shared Sharp’s stance.
Susie Moran said she was “dumbfounded” to find out a-
bout how much underage drinking goes on in other parents’ homes and thinks the social host ordinance is just another tool to target the problem.
“My son would tell me he was playing video games, but not that he was taking shots of whiskey while he was doing it,” she said. “I know there are parents in this town that teach their children, and others people’s children, that it’s OK to drink as long as (the parents) take away their car keys.”
During the discussion, council agreed Rae, City Clerk Julie Jordan and Assistant City Attorney Dan Foote would need to gather more information about the ordinance and how it would be implemented in Steamboat Springs before further discussion.
Council also agreed the ordinance should be discussed during a City Council meeting and not during the council’s Liquor License Authority meetings.