Bill addresses underage drinking

Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville believes the bill will broaden awareness of supplying alcohol to minors.
A photo illustration of underage drinking.

About four out of every five college students drink, and two of those four consume alcohol by binge drinking, according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Despite students’ lack of concern, leaders and politicians in the state are doing their best to diminish alcohol consumption among minors by increasing the severity of consequences for adults who permit it.

Proposed by Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, Senate Bill No. 614 aims to increase consequences for adults who “knowingly allow a minor to drink or possess alcohol or fail to stop a minor from drinking or possessing alcohol.”

A first offense violation would result in a class B misdemeanor, which may result in up to six months in jail and a fine up to $500. A second violation of this offense may result in a class E felony. Currently, any violations are classified as misdemeanors.

A student who preferred to remain anonymous said MU is a school with a large party culture.

“Part of my best memories freshman year were spent at Bengal’s,” the source said. “Even if this does make bars harder to get into, we still have the fraternities and house parties. It’s not going to put an end to underage drinking.”

Cunningham proposed the bill because he said he’s seen first-hand the damage that is inflicted upon a community when underage drinking occurs. Because similar punishment laws already exist regarding this matter, Cunningham said, “it’s a 50/50 chance the revisions are passed.”

If the bill passes, stakes will be higher for people who fail to follow this law. Any adult could face charges, including parents who allow their kids to have unsupervised parties or a gas station attendant who sells liquor to a minor. Failure to comply could result in altering a person’s life by putting a felony on their record.

Cunningham said his main goal is to increase awareness on the issue of supplying alcohol to minors.

Senior and former Bengals Bar and Grill bartender Adam Lowe said this potential new law might not affect bars as much. When Bengals was still open, bouncers checked IDs at the front and if they were let in, bartenders like Lowe could safely assume each person was of age.

“This law may not affect the job as a bartender in Columbia, at least how they operate,” Lowe said. “But it might change the management side of bars in terms of how they tackle underage drinking, perhaps with stronger education for their employees on how to spot a fake.”

Regarding bar revenue and desire amongst young adults to bartend, Lowe doesn’t think the bill will affect that in a college town like Columbia where bars are always packed on game days and weekends. Lowe said bartenders are “so lucrative.”

“It’s a great job and it’s a fun job,” Lowe said. “I would not suspect the fear of getting a felony for serving a minor would result in a decline in the demand for this job. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out and affects the community.”

Edited by Hailey Stolze | hstolze@themaneater.com

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