Underage drinking

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Cape Girardeau City Council decided Nov. 19 to not act on a new ordinance aimed at preventing underage drinking.

The ordinance would have disallowed those younger than 21 from being present in a restaurant or bar after 10 p.m. -- if the establishment has 35 percent or more of its annual gross sales coming from alcohol.

The proposed bill had good intentions. It was defeated by a 5-2 vote.

This was a good decision. Instead of making a new law, the city instead chose to step up enforcement of laws already on the books.

It can be a natural reaction for boards and commissions that want to fix problems to move to create more laws and regulations. Sometimes it's better to step back, as the city has done, reassess what is already being done and make that better.

Enforcement of the 10 p.m. curfew rule would have been difficult; it is already against the law for those under 21 to consume alcohol. So the city police department will step up its enforcement of that law.

City officials hope Cape Girardeau can build a reputation for cracking down on underage drinking. This will include increasing compliance checks and alcohol-server training, adding traffic checkpoints paid through grant-funding and "aggressive, zero-tolerance enforcement" of rules dealing with minors in possession of alcohol, nuisance parties and liquor license compliance.

These seem like more reasonable steps to address the problem than a curfew.

As we enter the holiday season, and with a college break between semesters coming soon, underage drinking is a concern, but irresponsible drinking isn't limited to minors. Let's all be responsible as we head into the New Year.

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