If you are going to be hosting an event that will have alcohol or alcoholic beverages available for drinking, with people under the legal drinking age of 21 in attendance, then you need to understand how social host liability works in Minneapolis.
What is social host liability?
The city of Minneapolis has enacted an ordinance that places direct responsibility on hosts of events that allow underage drinking. This ordinance was placed in effect to try to reduce the consumption of alcohol by underage drinkers. It is the city’s stance that underage drinking not only results in possible harm to the drinker, but also endangers the health and safety of the general public.
The result of this ordinance places responsibility squarely on the hosts of events serving alcoholic beverages to keep those drinks out of the hands of attendees under the legal drinking age. Failure to do so can result in strict penalties that include both possibility of fines and/or jail time served.
Does this ordinance still apply if the event is held on public property?
Actually, yes, it does. It does not matter if the event is hosted in the privacy of your own home, in a park, or in a facility rented specifically for the event. Social host liability still applies.
Does the host have to be present to be in violation?
No. If the host of an event has knowledge of the serving of alcohol and that people under the age of 21 will be in attendance, then they can still be held responsible even if they are not personally in attendance.
How big does an event have to be to be subject to this?
An event of this type can consist of as few as three people. A host of a simple gathering of friends or dinner party would still be held responsible if underage drinking occurs as a result.
Are there any exceptions to this ordinance?
In fact, there are two exceptions, or defenses, for this ordinance. The first applies if the parent gives the alcoholic drink to their own child for consumption in the privacy of their own home.
The second defense is if the underage drinking was required because of a legally protected religious observance.
What if the event was held at a local bar?
Any event held at an establishment legally selling alcoholic drinks and under regulation by local statutes is not included in this ordinance’s scope of authority. Here the responsibility would rest on the owners of the establishment and not the host of the event.
Does St. Paul also have a social host ordinance?
St. Paul passed its social host ordinance in October of 2009 in response to a multitude of underage drinking arrests. The problem grew to the point where authorities felt something had to be done to curb the problem. Their answer was determined to mirror Minneapolis and pass the liability of underage drinking onto the hosts of events and gatherings serving alcohol.
Possible penalties for allowing underage drinkers access to alcohol
- Possible jail time sentence
- Stiff fine
- Civil liability charges if an injury or property damage occurs
- Felony charges and jail time if death should occur as a direct result
- Increased insurance premiums
Bottom line, you don’t want to be found guilty of serving alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 in Minneapolis or St. Paul. However, we realize that sometimes things happen at events that we cannot control. After all, it would be impossible for a host to be everywhere all the time.
If you have been found to be in violation of this ordinance and need legal counsel, please contact our office for help. We are very familiar with this ordinance and can assist you in your defense.
Please note: This post is for informational purposes only. For specific legal advice, please call our office.
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