Over the years, as the number of counties offering alcohol has increased, there has been a greater push by the state to ensure that underage drinkers are being protected.
It’s been a largely successful effort so far, according to information from the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), which has two main programs that ensure those serving alcohol know the law, and know that they are being watched.
The Server Training in Alcohol Regulations program trains about 4,000 servers and sellers a year. The classes focus on applicable laws, how to spot fake IDs, the physical impact alcohol can have and how to deal with intoxicated customers.
Operation Zero Tolerance, meanwhile, pairs ABC investigators with young adults between the ages of 18 and 20. Those men and women, who are not allowed to misrepresent their age, then try to purchase alcohol.
Last year, there were nearly 3,000 visits, and 91 percent of the establishments passed, an all-time high. A decade ago, when the federally funded program began in Kentucky, the rate was around 68 percent.
The department’s efforts were recognized last month, when the Underage Drinking Enforcement Center gave ABC its Law Enforcement Agency of the Year Award.
One of the growing problems ABC says it is facing is the increase in energy drinks containing alcohol. Because their appearance looks similar to non-alcoholic energy drinks, many retailers are inadvertently selling them to minors.
These drinks are also problematic because the stimulant masks the alcoholic effect. ABC officials point out that even if a person is alert, the blood-alcohol content can still be relatively high.
Another disturbing trend is the growing use of alcohol vaporizers, which provide alcohol’s debilitating effects without a person having to drink anything. The General Assembly barred their use except in clinical settings during this year’s legislative session.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement by voters across the state to increase alcohol sales, at least in certain areas.
A 2007 survey by ABC found that 30 of our 120 counties were wet, 53 were dry, and 16 were moist, in which a city has approved sales, but not the surrounding county.
Twenty-two counties allow qualified restaurants to serve by the drink; 15 allow sales at golf clubs; and 16 have approved wineries.
In Kentucky, the laws governing minors and alcohol are pretty straight-forward. Like all other states, it’s illegal for those under 21 to have any alcohol in their system when driving. Those found with a fake ID can be fined up to $250 for a first offense, but additional offenses are a Class A misdemeanor, in which the penalty could be a fine of $500 and/or a year in jail.
Those with underage drinkers on their property can also be cited, even if they are unaware of the activity. These property owners could be charged with unlawful transaction with a minor in the third degree, which is also a Class A misdemeanor.
I believe the state has done a good job when it comes to underage drinking, but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. If you have any thoughts on ways we can improve, or if you have any other concerns involving state government, please let me know.
My address is Room 351C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For the deaf or hard of hearing, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Representative Rick Rand