On Thursday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a Social Host Ordinance that holds adults responsible for hosting, or knowingly providing a venue for gatherings, when they reasonably should have known underage drinking would occur.

Currently, state law prohibits furnishing alcohol to individuals less than 21 years of age; however, when law enforcement arrives on the scene of an underage drinking party, it is often difficult to determine who actually provided the alcohol.

Under this ordinance, it would be an infraction if: 1) an alcoholic beverage is consumed by a minor on private property; or 2) a person having control of a private property knowingly hosts, permits, or allows an event on the property where a minor consumes an alcoholic beverage. The infraction carries a $100, $200 and $500 fine for the first through third infractions respectively.

Landlords, property managers and similar owner agents of private property are explicitly excluded from this ordinance.

“The Board took a huge step forward in addressing the dangers of underage drinking,” says Supervisor Roger Dickinson. “This ordinance provides parents peace of mind by knowing that when their child is at someone else’s home, it is illegal for another adult to let them consume alcohol. It also provides our law enforcement personnel an additional tool to hold the responsible adult accountable.”

Sacramento’s underage drinking rate is dangerously high. Research shows that underage drinking negatively affects the healthy development of the adolescent brain and body, and increases a youth’s risk of developing substance abuse problems as an adult. Data reported from Sacramento County school students found that 90% of eleventh graders acknowledge frequent alcohol use is harmful, and 62% admit they have consumed alcohol. Thirty-four percent of these students reported drinking alcohol within the past 30 days (California Healthy Kids Survey, 2006-2008).

The Sacramento Youth and Alcohol Coalition presented this ordinance at several Town Hall meetings over the past month and received very positive responses from the community. The Coalition has worked with the District Attorney’s Office and the Rental Housing Association to gain their support for the ordinance.

For details on the ordinance and staff report, please click here.