Scott Stenger Discusses "Brown Jug" Bill

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Scott Stenger Discusses "Brown Jug" Bill

Premiere Date: 
September 20, 2013

The Tavern League's Stenger explain why bars should be able to sue underagers for $1,000.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

First, if you’re a bar owner who catches an underage patron trying to buy a drink you may be able to go after that patron for money, big money.

The Brown Jug law named after a liquor store in Alaska where a similar law is already in effect would allow tavern owners to recover $1,000 from the underaged drinker in small claims court.

If the patron in question is under age 18 the bar owner can take civil action against the parents It’s a whole new level of deterrence. Here to talk about it in support is Tavern League of Wisconsin lobbyist, Scott Stenger. Thanks very much for being here.

Scott Stenger:

Yep, thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

It sound’s like a lot of bars are being duped by fake IDs that kids carry, and then that puts the bar owner's license at risk. Is that accurate?

Scott Stenger:

Absolutely, with the Internet the demand for fake IDs is at an all time high, and it's hard to tell a legitimate one from a fake one. So it has become a very difficult process to be able to tell if somebody can legally be on your premise or not. This bill in Alaska has worked very well.

I don't think under age 19 or 20 years old are that worried about getting a ticket from law enforcement. They would be more worried if a bar owner could go after them, as this bill allows, for $1,000.

Frederica Freyberg:

How often do tavern owners get cited for serving underage patrons and then potentially put their license at risk?

Scott Stenger:

Well, it varies. I mean,  there are operations that law enforcement sends underage in. One is called Cops and Shops, and other types of programs. The compliance rate has been good over the past number of years, but it continues to be a problem. It’s–

We're not talking about an ID that says, you know,  Bob Smith, and Mary Smith is coming into the bar. It’s Bob Smith, everything on there is accurate, his age, his height, his weight. It's an illegally produced fake ID.

Frederica Freyberg:

And this is super-rampant, I imagine, especially in college towns.

Scott Stenger:

Absolutely, and it’s not like someone has one fake ID. I mean, we’ve– If you talk to our members, college students have multiple IDs, so if they lose one, big deal, we get another one. And many of them are, you know, Canadian, or other states that we, frankly, aren't as familiar with.

Frederica Freyberg:

One of the things that people talk about is that this bill could potentially give an incentive to bar owners or bartenders to serve underage patrons then take them to court, because they get to keep the recovery.

What about that argument?

Scott Stenger:

To be very polite, that's crazy. That is an absolutely-- There’s arguments you might line up against this bill. If that is your argument you've lost the debate. Our members have their license as their livelihood. None of them are going to knowingly risk that licence. The bill requires to you call law enforcement if an underage person illegally attempts to enter your bar. As the experience has been in Alaska, I believe we’ll see very little litigation under this bill. Instead you will see a sign on the door that says, try to come in my bar, I’ll sue you for $1,000, and that will be the deterrent to keep underage out of those establishments.

Frederica Freyberg:

Again, you think that that is a deterrent, whereby the $250 to $1,000 fine they might get if they were cited by police, isn't?

Scott Stenger:

Absolutely, they aren't even getting those tickets. In fact, the proponents of this bill, it was not the Tavern League, it was the Green Bay police department who came to our representative, Andre Jacque, and said, this is a good bill and it will help fight the issue of underage drinking. When you talk to college kids, they don't put a fake ID and try to go into a bar if they fear they could be penalized. It is just not there. The city of Madison, or any college town, have more pressing priorities on a Friday or Saturday night than to go to the local bar and give someone ticket. So it's not happening.

Frederica Freyberg:

It does sound kind of cumbersome though for the bar owner or liquor store owner to file suit and go to court. How popular is this idea with your members?

Scott Stenger:

It is cumbersome, and that is our point. It isn't going to occur very often. I think our members like it because it sends a message to that underage individual that we are serious. Our license is our livelihood, and we don't want your business, and we're going to do all we can to make sure to protect that license. So don't attempt to enter our business if you're not legal.

Frederica Freyberg:

Is there a better method of ferreting out underage drinkers?

Scott Stenger:

Well, the best method is lower the drinking. I mean, that’s what the biggest problem is, that’s why we have all these fake IDs. Other than that it's difficult. With the internet and the ability to produce and mass produce these IDs, it is very difficult. Which is why law enforcement, I believe, is frustrated. Which is why we’ll see this bill, not just is Wisconsin, Utah, Michigan and  other states are also looking at similar legislation.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Scott Stenger, thanks.

Scott Stenger:

Yep, thank you.


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