The Orion

Underage drinking ordinance in talks

Madison Holmes

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A proposed social host ordinance, which would punish those hosting private parties where alcohol is consumed by people under 21, will return to the City Council for review March 4.

The ordinance was discussed during Monday night’s monthly International Town and Gown Association meeting.

The ordinance would not specifically target students, it would target any party where the host is serving alcohol to anyone under 21, said Lori MacPhail, captain of the Chico Police Department after the meeting.

The proposed law has already been reviewed by the City Council once before, but after numerous complaints from landlords and property owners, the ordinance was sent back to the Internal Affairs Committee. The committee lessened landlord liability and increased the fines on party hosts.

The social host ordinance was developed to address the alcohol abuse in the Chico community after last year’s call to action which addressed the drinking problem in the Chico community.

The Chico social host ordinance is a part of a bigger movement in the United States.

In 2010, Andrew Ennabe, a CSU Fullerton student, was involved in a fatal car accident by the hands of 20-year-old Thomas Garcia, who was intoxicated after he left a party where alcohol was present. Ennabe’s parents sued the hostess of the party, Jessica Manosa, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

In response to Ennabe’s death, state lawmakers widened the liability for serving alcohol to those under 21. Now, anyone who knowingly serves alcohol to an underaged drinking can be held responsible if it results in injury or death.

In turn, local governments are developing laws that would punish hosts for providing a setting for alcohol to be consumed by under aged drinkers, even if no one is injured.

“It’s saying we are not condoning it, supporting it, or making it easy for you, because that’s not the responsible thing to do,” MacPhail said.

Student responses to the ordinance have been mostly positive, MacPhail said.

Michael Morrison, a second year agriculture major and frequent party host, said he thinks the new law is reasonable.

“I honestly think that it’s fair, because the host is allowing drinking to happen, whether or not they provided the alcohol,” Morrison said. “But, It’s going to be hard to manage and I don’t know how well it’s going to stick.”

Students are being encouraged to voice their opinions on the ordinance through committee and council meetings that are open to the public, said JW Dobbe, the Commissioner of Community Affairs for the Associate Students, after the meeting.

Students should also be receiving a letter informing them of the social host ordinance and inviting them to a forum to voice their opinion sometime this week, Dobbe said.

Those in support of the ordinance are not against drinking, they are against parties being out-of-control and students dying and getting hurt, Dobbe said.

“We feel that it’s really important that this is a tool that can be used not only for police officers, but for students as well,” Dobbe said. “We want to make sure that students and community members are being responsible for the parties that they throw.”

However, students will remain skeptical on the effectiveness of the social host ordinance until the law is truly enforced, Morrison said.

“At this point, people kind of know how to keep cops away from their party, anyway,” he said. “So, I don’t think it’s going to change that much.”

Madison Holmes can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Underage drinking ordinance in talks