La Crescent, MN (WXOW) - A Minnesota legislator said letting 18-year-olds drink in bars and restaurants is a smart safety move—but La Crescent law enforcement disagrees.
Minnesota State Representative Phyllis Kahn is proposing this because she believes serving 18-year -olds in public would make them drink more responsibly and avoid binge drinking, while serving as a benefit for public health and business.
The bill would prevent 18-year-olds from purchasing alcohol anywhere other than bars and restaurants. At The Sports Hub in La Crescent, owner Joel Minegar said letting 18-20 year olds drink alcohol would likely increase their business. "If they could have a beer or whatever instead of a pop, you might get them to hang around here,” Minegar said.
The Sports Hub serves food and soft drinks, and because of this, a fair share of their customers are underage. Minegar said putting those underage adults in a controlled environment would be an all-around benefit. "That would alleviate some of the concerns that kids are, at that age, 18 to 20, possibly drinking somewhere else, whether it be in the rural areas or house parties and stuff, so I'd be for it if they switched to that,” Minegar said. "In Europe and stuff, the drinking age is a lot younger. I don't even know if they have a drinking age there, but I think kids would be better served to be more responsible."
Minegar said by having the current legal-drinking age at 21, it's human nature for 18-20 year olds to break the law. "I think sometimes when you make things harder to get, I think that intrigues more people and that may be more inviting for them to say 'Let's see if we can get away with it'."
Sports Hub bartenders are experienced, they know their clientele, and over-serving 18-20 year old wouldn't be an issue. "That's one of the main things that we watch for is to make sure that nobody has had too much."
La Crescent Police Chief Douglas Stavenau said because they have a lot of 18-year-olds in the La Crescent community who are still in high school, lowering the drinking age could create many issues.
"I don't know how this bill would fit, if you could consume alcohol in an establishment legally, how this would fit in athletic programs, within the school district,” Chief Stavenau said.
Stavenau said the change would drive commerce and revenue, but he doesn't understand how it would provide safety and awareness. "I'm not sure how purchasing a beverage at the local establishment would prevent the binge drinking on a campus,” Stavenau said. "I understand the perspective that if you attend a bar or grill, you want to consume a beer or glass of wine with your meal, but I'm not sure how that translates fitting into the campus life that this is going to alleviate binge drinking on campus."
If the bill does or does not pass, La Crescent Police and the Sports Hub will enforce whatever the state may decide moving forward. If the bill passes and becomes law, it would go into effect August 1, 2015.