UNDERAGE DRINKING

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UNDERAGE DRINKING

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Ban on minors in bars to go before officials Tuesday
Manatee to consider ordinance limiting underage access

NICK MASON
Herald Staff Writer

MANATEE - Nightclub consultant Rich Unger of Sarasota is pushing local governments to ban minors from bars.

Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash listened and said he thinks it is worth exploring.

"He's pretty hot on it," McClash said of Unger. "I certainty felt it was necessary for us to follow up on it."

County commissioners are scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to instruct county attorneys to draft a county ordinance regulating the age of people inside nightclubs and bars.

If they do, attorneys would write it and commissioners would host at least one public hearing before voting on an ordinance. The process could take months.

The issue of prohibiting or limiting people ages 20 or younger inside drinking establishments comes in the wake of young adults and teens being killed or injured on or near property of nightclubs and bars in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

"This is a public safety issue," McClash said. "Had it not been for the injuries to people underneath 21 at these bars or establishments, we wouldn't be talking about something like this.

"You have to question whether people who are not allowed to be drinking should be in drinking establishments after a certain time," he said. "Unfortunately, this community does have a problem with under-age drinking."

McClash said he is not sure the ordinance should totally ban minors. He said he might support a ban only at certain hours late at night, though he hasn't any specific time frame in mind.

Unger said Friday that people ages 20 and younger visit nightclubs and bars to be served alcoholic beverages, not to listen to music or socialize with older friends.

"Their only motive is to get a drink," Unger said. "They are either drinking or trying to get a drink."

He has lobbied Manatee and Sarasota politicians for months to keep minors out of bars. He said he is grateful that Manatee commissioners will consider moving ahead with an ordinance.

"If they don't go forward with this kind of ordinance, then they are living in the age of dinosaurs," Unger said. "I would be mad as hell if they don't pass it."

Others think commissioners have better ways to spend their time and money.

"That, to me, is an absolute waste of our taxpayers' money," said Linda Cinque of Bradenton, owner of Cinque Advertising. "I just don't like to see our time being spent in places where others have the power to make their own changes."

Cinque wrote a letter this week to The Herald expressing her views and expanded on them during an interview Friday.

"I think it's up to the business owners to enforce what they feel they need to do to limit their liability," Cinque said. "My position is it is not up to government to regulate how a business is run.

"I believe in less government," she said. "I don't think we are talking about a (political party) philosophy. I think we are talking about common sense."

County attorneys informed commissioners that state law and court cases suggest that they have authority to regulate the age of patrons in businesses serving alcoholic beverages.

Assistant County Attorney Robert Eschenfelder wrote a memo recommending that any ordinance include "a firm factual record of the types of negative, harmful, immoral or dangerous circumstances the commission desires to halt or lessen."

He explained that "proceeding carefully would help ensure the ordinance would withstand the almost certain legal challenge" from businesses catering to younger crowds.

Copyright � 2006 Rich Unger

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This web site, its contents, graphics and text are � 2005, Promoting Nightclubs.com.
All Rights Reserved. For comments, questions, or suggestions about this site, contact the webmaster.

[ Home ]

This web site, its contents, graphics and text are � 2005, Promoting Nightclubs.com.
All Rights Reserved. For comments, questions, or suggestions about this site, contact the webmaster.