For those thinking of throwing a backyard kegger this summer and inviting underage drinkers to it — you might want to reconsider.
Lawrence just became the city with the strongest social hosting ordinance in the state.
Concerned that laws against those serving alcohol to minors at parties weren’t being fully enforced, a local alcohol prevention group lobbied the Lawrence City Commission to strengthen its social hosting law.
“Because Lawrence has such a high number of underage age drinkers here, we need to take the steps to make sure this is a really good enforceable law,” said Jen Brinkerhoff of the New Tradition Coalition, the group that pushed for the changes.
State law calls for a minimum $1,000 fine and possibly one year in jail for anyone allowing a minor to drink alcohol on their property.
Earlier this year, the Legislature changed the wording so hosts would be responsible even if they didn’t intentionally supply alcohol to underage drinkers, but acted recklessly.
The city’s law goes a step further, more specifically defining what that reckless behavior would entail, including not taking steps to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.
Under the new ordinance, which was approved by the commission on Tuesday, individuals who are hosting parties need to control the access of alcohol by minors and verify suspected minor’s ages with photo IDs.
The law also establishes a presumption that everyone attending the party is invited. So, it would be up to the host to prove that minors were trespassing.
In the past, City Prosecutor Jerry Little said the court had trouble providing physical proof that a person hosting the party intentionally invited a minor to it. And without that proof, charges didn’t stand up in front of a judge.
This spring, a review of court files by the Lawrence Journal-World showed that since 2005, 24 charges have been filed in the Lawrence Municipal Court for the unlawful hosting of minors. Of those cases, just one defendant pleaded guilty and two others were required to pay the full $1,000 fine.
While the state’s social hosting law is geared toward parents, the majority of cases in Lawrence center around college-age parties in the Oread neighborhood just off the Kansas University campus.
Brinkerhoff, who has worked to strengthen the law for the past few months, said she plans to start working with the Oread Neighborhood Association to spread the message that the city’s laws have toughened up.
She hopes a greater threat of getting stuck with a $1,000 fine will make party hosts think twice before inviting minors.