A Curious Loophole?

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In Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama, there is a whole constellation of bars that orbit the Capstone. Every now and then, there will be a story in the local newspaper about a shooting having taken place in one of them. Afterwards an irate citizen may even address the City Council and ask that a bar be closed.

But, as dramatic as shootouts may be be, the major problem that Tuscaloosa’s thriving alcohol dispensing businesses create is related to the consumption of alcohol itself.

Due to a loophole in the law minors are a significant part of the customer base of these University centered bars. When the age where alcohol could be legally sold was raised to twenty-one somehow a loophole was created that allowed nineteen and twenty year-olds to continue to be allowed into bars.

Alcohol Policy MD has described the problem in this way:

In many states throughout the country, minors – those under the legal drinking age of 21 – are permitted in bars unaccompanied by an adult. State and local regulations vary widely in the extent to which they permit minors to enter on-sale retail alcohol outlets

One thing is clear: allowing minors into drinking establishments such as bars and nightclubs is, in the words of one enforcement official, “a regulator’s nightmare.” (Inspector General 1991). It creates numerous difficulties for servers, who must conduct repeated identification checks and continuously track who is actually drinking the beverages being served. It allows minors to consume alcohol purchased from older individuals. And it encourages minors to drink as a way to socialize and become one with their peers.

Underage college drinkers are more likely than their of-age counterparts to suffer consequences ranging from unplanned sex, getting hurt or injured, requiring medial treatment for an alcohol overdose, and doing something they would later regret.  (Wechsler et al. 2000)  These problems often have impacts not just on the drinkers, but on fellow students and area residents as well.

According to Alabama State Code Title 28 : 

It shall be unlawful: (a) For any person to sell, furnish, give to or purchase for any minor, alcoholic beverages; or to attempt to sell, furnish, give to or purchase for any minor, any alcoholic beverages.

Tuscaloosa’s City Code (Sec. 3-42. -Certain licensees not to admit under-aged persons) clearly states:

It shall be unlawful for a lounge liquor licensee, or manager, or other person in charge of the licensed establishment either directly, or by its servant, agent or employee, to admit or allow any person to be in, on, or upon said licensed premises in violation of any state law regulating the age of persons allowed on such premises.  

Howard Koplowitz reported on a recent lawsuit involving a minor who had been picked up after having been at a local bar:

The parents of Megan Rondini, the University of Alabama student who killed herself after alleging that she had been raped by a Tuscaloosa man, filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit Sunday against her alleged rapist, two university employees, the Tuscaloosa County sheriff, a sheriff’s deputy, and a sheriff’s office investigator.

The lawsuit by Michael and Cynthia Rondini alleges that the school and law enforcement failed their daughter. It claims the sheriff’s office inadequately pursued the investigation and did not take Megan’s claims seriously, and the university did not give her adequate psychological treatment and support after the alleged rape.

There has been no public information about whether Rondini had obtained alcohol at Innisfree Irish Pub.  But one fact remains. She would likely be alive today if the bar/restaurant outside of which she was allegedly offered a ride home had not been legally allowed to admit her onto its premises after it had stopped serving food.*

Reportedly she left the bar after midnight and was going to walk to her apartment which would have been a thirty minute walk through many areas which were poorly lit. Then she was offered a ride by a man who who reputedly frequented the bar which is located across the street from his business. A chain of events then occurred which culminated in the college student’s suicide.  ( There were concerns about whether a “date rape drug” was involved. That and whether a rape actually occurred may be brought out in court proceedings.  The use of “date rape” drugs such as GBH, Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, has been known to take place in Tuscaloosa bars.** )

 

Bars in Tuscaloosa provides a look of the attitude of many bar patrons towards “under 18” bars. “Patton” contributed to the forum in this way:

…all the 18 and up bars suck. You’re going to have much more fun if you just go 21 and older.    …with that said.

The Strip has Houndstooth, Red Shed, Gallettes, all 21 and up and all good given the night. (fake ID should be ok at Red Shed and Gspot not so much Tooth. Crimson Tavern has good drink specials and is a good place to start off.

As for 18 I’d stick to Rounders, but it isn’t very fun. Innisfree is between the strip and downtown and is probably the best bar in town. Them along with Moes, and the Booth make up the best bars, with BY FAR the best talent. All within walking distance of both the Strip and Downtown. Downtown bars are gonna be the older crowd. I don’t venture there often so ask someone else.

You’ll get a feel for most bars just by standing outside them. If you’re getting the weird vibe than just move on…

If the loophole where minors are allowed into bars were to be closed, perhaps many bars that serve the campus area would close. Of course, if the University of Alabama were to take more effective steps to discourage the consumption of alcohol by minors, including policing events on campus, that would be a significant contribution to promoting the health and safety of its students.

 

 

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*Innisfree was allowed to accommodate minors because it serves food that requires the use of utensils and offers seating. But its food service ends hours before the legal hour at which alcohol sales are no longer permitted. Megan Rondini reportedly left the restaurant/bar after midnight, long after the establishment had in effect become only a bar.

**From Wikipedia

GHB is used recreationally to stimulate euphoria, to increase sociability, to promote libido and lower inhibitions. It is sold under names such as Rufies, Luiquid E and Liquid X. It is usually taken orally, by the capful or teaspoon.

From 1996 to 1999, 22 reports of GHB being used in DFSA were made to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. A 26-month study of 1,179 urine samples from suspected DFSAs across the United States found 4% positive for GHB. The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) says that in the United States GHB had surpassed Rohypnol as the substance most commonly used in DFSA, likely because GHB is much more easily available, cheaper and leaves the body more quickly. GHB is only detectable in urine for six to twelve hours after ingestion.

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