Underage drinking crackdown advances in Pittsburgh council

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Pittsburgh city Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents often rowdy neighborhoods in the South Side and South Oakland, introduced a bill Tuesday to further crack down on underage drinking.

The bill would increase penalties for those hosting parties where underage drinkers are present, with hopes of limiting house parties attended by college students who are not yet 21. Mr. Kraus said he patterned his "social host liability" ordinance on laws in other college towns that have wrestled with underage parties that upset neighborhood residents.

The still-developing bill could be "a good tool to help long-standing residents that are now having to cope with large amounts of students living in their neighborhood," the councilman said.

The measure's language is still fluid and tentative, and Mr. Kraus said he expects it to be rewritten after community discussion over the coming weeks. Since council goes on its monthlong recess next week, it will not come before council until after Labor Day.

As of now, it is not clear how the measure differs from other state laws prohibiting providing alcohol to minors, or if it would cover landlords or owners of properties hosting parties, or just those living in them. The city already has an ordinance holding landlords responsible for police being repeatedly dispatched to disruptive properties.

"Combined they could both be a useful tool," said Wanda Wilson, the executive director of the Oakland Planning and Development Corp. The key will be getting law enforcement to be part of the discussions and buy into the law, she said.

"Our issue has been we have the tools in place, but do they have the personnel to go in [to the parties] and identify who is the host here and follow through and write a citation?" she asked.

Like "social host" laws in some other states Mr. Kraus's bill includes exemptions for alcohol provided during religious observances (such as a seder or communion), or to parents that give their children alcoholic beverages in the home.

He argued that on the whole, college students should not feel targeted by the measure.

"This is not to punish students, but to protect students as well. They are a vital part of our economy," he said.

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Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at earlyreturns.sites.post-gazette.com or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.


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