To fight an ongoing problem for bar owners and teens, Senator Jeff Klein and local agencies are working together to curb teenage drinking.
The senator met with community leaders, residents and business owners Saturday, June 12, outside the Throggs Neck Clipper to announce the launch of a new program with the Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership that encourages bar owners to educate their employees about underage drinking and begin using more photo identification scanners.
The program encourages business owners to send employees to free classes authorized by the State Liquor Authority that teach bartenders to spot underage drinkers and gives them information about legal and liability issues. Businesses that sign up will be entered in a raffle to win a free ID scanner, which typically retails for about $850.
Legislation that Klein recently introduced, offers a 25 percent reduction in civil penalties for any bar owner that participates in the classes if a minor is caught drinking at their establishment. The bill also allows bar owners to use the classes for legal defense if they face criminal charges.
Klein started Saturday’s conference by referencing a study that found 50 percent of college freshmen reported trying alcohol and 30 percent said they had knowingly gotten into a car with someone they knew had been drinking. Klein said the community needed a comprehensive approach to tackle this issue, which puts teens’ lives in danger and can be a serious legal issue for bar owners.
“These are serious problems, and we are here today is to try and make sure we can take a bite out of underage drinking. We want to make sure our hard-working businesses owners can do what they can,” he said. “This is going to go a long way to making sure we crack down on underage drinking.”
Eileeen Tierney, who owns the Throggs Neck Clipper, which was the first business to sign up for the classes, said it didn’t take much convincing for her to take part in the program. Underage drinking at her establishment has been an on going worry for her, and she is excited her bartenders will be able to take the six-hour training course.
"They all try to get in,” she said about minors. “We like to be part of the program. I think it’s good. It’ll help cover us if there’s a problem.”
So far about 19 bars have signed up for the classes, according to Michael Jones, deputy chief executive officer of the SLA. He said the legislation that will allow for reduced penalties for bars that are charged with violating underage drinking laws is almost incentive enough to take the classes.
“With the legislation and reduced penalty, I think that gives bar owners a really good reason to take part. Underage drinking is the most serious violation there is, penalties range from $2,500 to $10,000 max,” he said, adding that in extreme circumstances the SLA can order an emergency shutdown of a bar.
“We are trying to make sure our businesses are good neighbors and comply with all the rules, laws and regulations,” he added.
Reach reporter Max Mitchell at (718) 742-3394 or firstname.lastname@example.org