While realigning city resources is a key component of a new plan to manage the South Side bar and nightclub scene, a consultant's report also recommends more accountability for people who host parties in their homes.
Councilman Bruce Kraus said he will address that issue with legislation that would impose fines of up to $500 on people who allow underage drinking at parties they host. He said the legislation is modeled after a similar law in Minneapolis.
"They have a level of responsibility," Mr. Kraus said of "social hosts."
The city last year spent $100,000 on the study by California-based Responsible Hospitality Institute. Another $100,000 has been allocated in next year's budget for implementing recommendations that the consultant made with the input of nearly 200 residents, establishment owners, officials and community groups.
The report called for a sweeping shift in management of entertainment districts, including how the city deploys police officers and enforces fire codes.
A second prong involves a carrot-and-stick approach to the university students who live and party on the South Side. While a social host ordinance would hit students in the pocketbook, the report lays out other methods -- a marketing campaign, for example -- to encourage responsible behavior.
South Side residents long have complained about vandalism, illegal parking, noise, litter, public urination and other problems related to partying in the area. While the problems often are blamed on East Carson Street's bars and nightclubs, the report notes that house parties, many of them thrown by the resident student population, contribute to disorder.
"House parties are a prominent issue in neighborhoods with a large number of student and young adult residents," the report said. "Some individuals have been caught charging an entry fee to the house hosting the party and/or a fee for alcohol. Renters and party hosts do not have appropriate alcohol permits, insurance or sufficient bathrooms for the large number of people the party may attract."
The report cites a correlation among house parties, underage drinking and date rape.
In recent interviews, Mr. Kraus has said underage drinkers may wander from house parties to East Carson Street and then loiter there, contributing to crowd-control problems. He also has expressed concern about young revelers of legal drinking age who "pre-load" or "pre-game" at house parties before venturing to bars and nightclubs for additional drinking.
Aaron Sukenik, a South Side resident and neighborhood activist, said house parties sometimes spill onto side streets and he noted that some revelers -- either fresh from a house party or who have just arrived by car -- venture onto East Carson "with bottle in hand."
Under Mr. Kraus' proposal, a person would violate a city ordinance by hosting a party where underage drinking occurred. The person could violate the ordinance without being present when the underage drinking actually took place. The ordinance would make an exception for underage consumption that occurs as part of a religious observance.
Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney's office, declined comment on Mr. Kraus' proposal but noted that two charges -- furnishing alcohol to minors and corruption of minors -- are among the tools police and prosecutors currently have to combat adult-enabled underage drinking. He said prosecutors use every opportunity to remind parents of the seriousness of underage drinking.
Under the Minneapolis law, which Mr. Kraus is using as a model, a host commits a criminal offense if the person allows underage drinking at a party and does nothing to prevent it. Depending on the circumstances, others associated with the property where the party took place -- housemates and landlords, for example -- also may be held responsible. On its website, the University of Minnesota's Office of Student Affairs links to the Minneapolis ordinance and to a similar law in St. Paul.
Social host laws are becoming more common because of growing intolerance with underage drinking and related problems, such as date rape, said Richard P. Campbell, a Boston lawyer and former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association whose firm explores the issue at socialhostliability.org.
Jim Peters, president of Responsible Hospitality Institute, said he would like to explore various other ways to try to make student residents and visitors more responsible. He said universities can discipline students for off-campus conduct; marketing campaigns can encourage responsible behavior; and block parties can help forge respect between a neighborhood's older and younger residents.
As another way to control house parties, the report noted, beer distributors might be required to number kegs for tracking purposes.
"I'd be happy to look at the language and see what it proposes," said Mark Tanczos, president of Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania and owner of Tanczos Beverage in Bethlehem, Pa. He said it's already common for distributors to take down the names and addresses of keg purchasers.
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