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Goodhue County eyes social host, seller/server ordinances

Hosting underage drinkers could become illegal across Goodhue County in 2011.

Chemical Health Initiative is urging the Goodhue County Board to pass social host and server/seller ordinances this year.

The ordinances would apply to rural residences and establishments and would be enforced by the Goodhue County Sheriff's Department.

Social host ordinances hold hosts legally responsible for anyone under 21 drinking alcohol at their home, even if the host didn't provide the alcohol.

The seller/server ordinance mandates training for anyone involved in selling alcohol. Training would include information about the legal ramifications of serving alcohol to underage or clearly inebriated customers, said Joanne Pohl, director of CHI.

Many parties and underage drinking occur in rural areas, and this ordinance would give the county more authority in those areas, Goodhue County Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said.

Additionally, Pohl said the county has a number of liquor licensees outside city limits that would be covered by the seller/server ordinance.

"The county can make this very easy for the rural areas by just taking a stand," Rechtzigel said.

CHI offers server/seller training materials for free, so the ordinance wouldn't create additional costs for the establishments, Rechtzigel said.

While education is CHI's main goal, Rechtzigel said ordinances are another tool that can be utilized to send a message and prevent underage drinking.

Violation of either ordinance would result in a misdemeanor and could carry a 90-day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine, said Goodhue County attorney Stephen Betcher, who will be drafting the ordinances.

"I think it really sets a good tone," Rechtzigel said. "Cities might say 'if the county felt it was important enough to go forward on this, maybe we should too.'"

CHI is also urging cities within the county to pass their own ordinances so coverage will be consistent, Pohl said.

Red Wing already has both ordinances in place, and was the second city in the state to pass a social host ordinance. Kenyon also has a social host ordinance, while Wanamingo already has a seller/server ordinance.

Since its inception, the Red Wing police department has issued 20 citations for social host ordinance violations, police chief Tim Sletten said.

"We believe that just by having the ordinance in place it will persuade people to not have events like that," he said.

While a clear timeline for presenting these ordinances hasn't been established yet, they are main pieces of CHI's 2011 agenda, Pohl said. She added CHI hopes to have the ordinances in place before the next liquor licensing cycle starts in December.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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