Social host ordinance could pass

City Council has lengthy debate about law to curb underage drinking


— Debate about a law that would create new penalties for accomplices to underage drinking covered a lot of ground Tuesday night, from moral codes and political philosophy to rumors of an unlawful New Year's Eve party.

There ultimately was enough support from members of the Steamboat Springs City Council to bring the "social host" ordinance back for a first reading at a future council meeting. City ordinances are subject to two readings. If passed, the social host ordinance would allow authorities to fine adults found guilty of knowingly providing a location for underage drinking. Mandatory community service and adult education programs also would be imposed. Jail time for repeat offenders would be at the discretion of the municipal judge.

Dervla Lacy, Routt County director of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said the ordinance would send "a clear and powerful message" that underage drinking is not tolerated in Steamboat Springs. She presented research and study conclusions to argue that regulations need to move inside private residences because that's where teens drink most often.

"Our youths are not getting alcohol from bars and liquor stores," she said.

Council members and residents who oppose the law compared it to Prohibition and said it could have the unintended consequence of moving underage drinking to outlying areas of Routt County and put more drunk drivers on the road. Councilwomen Meg Bentley and Cari Hermacinski asked why the law was necessary given current state laws, including one that prohibits "any person : to knowingly : suffer or permit" underage drinking.

Routt County District Attorney Carl Stahl said someone could be prosecuted under state laws but that a social host ordinance would give the city "broader enforcement powers." Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said that in his law enforcement career, he has never heard of anyone being chargesuccessfully or prosecuted under the state laws, but he promised to supply a more definitive answer in time for the ordinance's first reading.

This is the second time in less than a year that City Council has considered the law; it previously fell, 3-3, on a second reading in December. Proponents came to Tuesday's meeting armed with additional research aimed at addressing enforceability, the potential for unintended consequences and other council members' concerns. No new support was won, however, and City Council President Loui Antonucci, Bentley and Hermacinski voted against reconsidering the law.

"Kids are kids," Antonucci said. "Kids want to drink. I wanted to drink. But I didn't drink, because I knew my parents wouldn't allow it. I never thought it was government's job to raise people's kids for them."

But the presence of Councilman Jon Quinn, who missed the December vote, tilted the balance into the ordinance's favor. Councilmen Steve Ivancie, Scott Myller and Walter Magill joined Quinn in support of the ordinance.

"For me, I think this all boils down to pushing it underground or condoning it," Myller said. "And I don't want to condone it."

Unconfirmed rumors abounded at Tuesday's meeting about an unidentified family in The Sanctuary neighborhood of Steamboat. According to the rumors, the family consistently hosts parties with alcohol for teenagers, including a reported New Year's Eve bash after which a young man was said to be found passed out in the snow in his underwear the next morning.

Despite claims that police were aware of the parties at the residence, Rae said after the hearing that the stories were news to him. He said he would look into it. At 7:03 a.m. New Year's Day, according to Routt County Communications reports, an ambulance was requested for a man passed out in the snow near a condominium complex. No address was given. Police said the man got up and ran away before the ambulance arrived.


bigfatdog 7 years, 11 months ago

THIS IS NOT THE JOB OF STEAMBOAT SPRINGS COUNCIL MEMBERS!!!!!!!! Yes, there is a problem but the government cannot solve this national issue. Council members need to be aware of the issue but respectfully not pass an ordinance as this law will do nothing other than attack civil liberties and push the youth out of safe areas to unsafe areas, ie rural mtn roads, etc. I thought the Council was smater than this!!! Another ordinance that will be overturned in the near future and a complete waste of Council resources!! The groups pushing the issues need to realize this is not governments job. Obama cannot fix everything and we the people need to take more responsibility.


Howard Merken 7 years, 11 months ago

Jewish people recently celebrated Seders (Passover meals) two nights in a row. Did the council consider that the traditional four cups of wine per person per Seder could make a criminal out of a man leading a family Seder? My father told me how he would drink these four cups as a child until his ears turned red. He was no alcoholic; in fact, very few Jews are.

Would this ordinance ban wine for church communion, necessitating the use of grape juice (this custom varies from church to church)?

I'm not for drunk driving or even drunkenness at home, but let's be a little careful here. When my first son was born, I found out that circumcision might be no longer considered a medical necessity, so that insurance might not cover it the way they did, especially if we waited the biblically prescribed eight days. (If that last sentence seems confusing or fuzzy, so was my understanding of this insurance issue.) Sometimes we get into a "zero tolerance" mentality in which common sense is the first casualty.


jk 7 years, 11 months ago

I have a few issues with this:

This one, from one of our elected officials, tops my list. "For me, I think this all boils down to pushing it underground or condoning it," Myller said. "And I don't want to condone it." This is the brilliant reasoning you used for voting the way you did Scott? I figure you don't have any kids this applies to, because If you did I am sure you would not be pushing them underground.

I also wonder if Dervla has raised any kids? If she had she would know about their resourcefulness in getting what they want, and realize that right now they are all mocking the "clear and power message" that is supposedly being sent.

Finally for the Pilot, Was it necessary to include these last two paragraphs in this article? We already know you agree with and back this ridiculous waste of time and money. Is it really necessary to stir the community pot by printing these accusations? You have only made yourself look foolish by backing it with, "At 7:03 a.m. New Year's Day, according to Routt County Communications reports, an ambulance was requested for a man passed out in the snow near a condominium complex. No address was given. Police said the man got up and ran away before the ambulance arrived", from the police record.


callguinness 7 years, 11 months ago

Well its a good thing there are no Condominium complexes in the Sanctuary, cause that means the ambulance request and the "rumor" are unrelated. On top of that why in the world would we use rumors to pass any ordinance about anything?


Kristopher Hammond 7 years, 11 months ago

It is already a crime for adults to supply alcohol to minors. This ordinance makes it a crime to own a home where you "know or should know" that alcohol will be consumed by minors. That language can be used to prosecute parents who leave town for the weekend because "everybody knows" what will happen. this will create more problems than it solves. Our teenagers are going to do the same things we did when we were teenagers. Making more people criminals will NOT solve this problem. It WILL make the supporters APPEAR to be "doing something, anything" to solve the problem with no evidence whatsoever that it will work. This is a classic case of bullying the Council with the old "you are either for teenage drinking or against it." The real inquiry should be: are you FOR bad laws or AGAINST them. Act soon because most of Steamboat's teenagers are headed to Mexico for a Spring Break legal drinking experience...with their parents.


smart65 7 years, 11 months ago

Howard: Nassau, Suffolk County LI NY social host law allows parents to serve alcohol to their own children or underage guests during religious observances. Check it out.


Howard Merken 7 years, 11 months ago

To smart65,

Good. I'm glad. I just hope our own council considers the religious issues involved. The US Supreme Court ruled against some American Indians using peyote, so there's already a strong precedent (which I disagree with) against such a religious exemption.


Duke_bets 7 years, 11 months ago

Ever heard of 'Contributing to Minors'........Does that law not apply in Steamboat Springs? Actually it does. Council members might want to check it out.


jk 7 years, 11 months ago

Another comment the paper failed to include in this article."If adopted, it is estimated the ordinance will cost the municipal court between $18,000 and $60,000 a year."


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