The Irvine City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to fine party hosts who allow underage drinking at their gatherings.
According to a city staff report, the fines range from up to $750 for first offenders to $1,500 for a second offense within 12 months of the first. Subsequent offenses could result in a fine up to $3,000.
It is already illegal under state law for minors to drink alcohol in nearly every situation except religious services. The proposed fines in Irvine would give police the option of citing party hosts who either allow or don’t take measures to prevent underage drinking.
State law already holds adults liable when underage drunk drivers who consumed alcohol at the adults’ homes are involved in traffic collisions. Adults giving alcohol to those under 21 can also be fined.
But the new city ordinance permits fining party hosts of any age. Parents of minors would ultimately be liable should their children be cited.
Council members, though supportive, questioned how the ordinance would be enforced. Citations could be given when police respond to unruly parties, said Police Cmdr. Mike Hamel.
“Take me through it. Beaver Cleaver, age 19, answers the door, then what happens?” asked Councilman Larry Agran.
Hamel said that officers “through a series of questions and observations would be likely to come to a determination as to whether social hosting is occurring.”
Agran and Mayor Sukhee Kang said they wanted to revisit the issue in several months to see how the ordinance is being enforced.
Councilwoman Beth Krom noted that there are much larger social forces at work — peer pressure, university rites of passage and far-reaching marketing campaigns by the spirit and beer industry.
“We have a huge problem with underage drinking. We really have a society in which those who are the purveyors really are indiscriminate as to how they reach consumers,” Krom said.
“I would like to see us focus on enforcement, but I would also like to see us focus on education.”