Paying for Underage Drinking

Social Host Ordinance Could Make Grown-Ups Think Twice

Amy Chong

“Getting alcohol is easier than checking a book out of this library,” remarked a high school student when asked how easy it is for teens to access alcohol. At a recent Junior Statesmen of America event, guest speaker Roberta Payan shared a proposition to curb underage drinking: the Social Host Ordinance (SHO). Already in effect in Ventura, Camarillo, and Oxnard, this law holds hosts of parties liable for underage drinking-even on private property. This ordinance will likely be presented to the Santa Barbara City Council in late January.

Payan, the coordinator of the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention Teen Coalition, explained that the “SHO holds the non-commercial individuals responsible for underage drinking at parties on property they own, lease or otherwise control. Purchase, possession or consumption of alcohol by minors in public or commercial settings is already prohibited under state law. However, state law does not prohibit youth consumption of alcohol on private property. Establishing a SHO can fill that gap in the law by providing law enforcement a tool to help address the problem of underage drinking.”

Amy Chong

The ADAP Teen Coalition, composed of local high school-aged youth, works with community organizations to reduce substance abuse through merchant education, speak-outs, media advocacy and public policy. Involved organizations include the Santa Barbara Police Department and youth groups Friday Night Live, Fighting Back, Future Leaders of America, and the Santa Barbara Youth Council. According to ADAP focus groups, 90 percent of teens agree that home is the easiest place to acquire and consume alcohol. The ADAP Teen Coalition supports the SHO as one way of discouraging underage drinking.

Currently the ordinance is in draft phase, covering four main points. First, a minimum of two people is considered a party. Second, a $1,000 fine will be charged to the host when minors are caught with alcohol. If the host is a minor, parents or guardians are held liable. Third, the draft states that whomever “has control or is in charge of the premises where the party, gathering, or event takes place” will be fined, including parents, guardians and landlords. Adults will be charged regardless of their knowledge of the event or of any intention of underage alcoholic possession or consumption. Finally, the host will be charged for police returns.

Amy Chong

The proposed consequences occur after the police receive a call about a loud party. If minors are caught consuming alcohol, police are capable of stopping the party and fining the host or adult guardian. The host may have to attend training sessions for alcohol provision and may be charged for further police and emergency service involvement. Violating the SHO is currently being proposed as a civil offense.

As the ordinance remains in draft phase, the public is welcome to voice their opinion. Write the Santa Barbara City Council or Board of Supervisors, or support the ordinance through the ADAP Teen Coalition website.


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