Legislature(2001 - 2002)
04/10/2001 03:34 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 214-CIVIL ACTION AGAINST MINORS IN BARS Number 0022 CHAIR MURKOWSKI announced that the committee first would consider HOUSE BILL NO. 214, "An Act relating to a civil action against a person under 21 years of age who enters premises where alcohol is sold or consumed." REPRESENTATIVE MEYER, speaking as the sponsor of HB 214, said this bill allows bar and liquor store owners to be proactive and to prosecute underage kids who try to get into an alcohol establishment by using fake identification (ID). Many bars and package stores have used this program effectively, and the word is getting out to the kids. Number 0155 REPRESENTATIVE MEYER relayed that this program allows the alcohol licensee to offer cash incentives to employees who turn in those trying to use a fake ID. Usually [owners] are able to take the kids to civil court and be awarded up to $1,000. The programs at Chilkoot Charlie's and the Brown Jug split the money with the employee, thus giving an incentive for an employee to look for fake IDs. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER explained that this program is optional. The only requirement is that [the owner] put a sign on the door that says a person must be 21 years of age to enter. Many bars in Anchorage have been using the program for several years; the program was started by ordinance, at the request of the liquor industry, because kids were being caught with fake IDs and were not being prosecuted. The alcohol industry wanted to be more proactive keeping underage kids out of their establishments. He said this would hopefully deter underage drinking. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER pointed out in the committee file a letter from the Brown Jug, which uses the program, and one from the Anchorage Restaurant and Beverage Association (ARBA); he said ARBA quoted Mike Gordon from Chilkoot Charlie's, who has also used the program effectively. There is no fiscal note for the bill, he informed members. CHAIR MURKOWSKI surmised that if [an owner] brings a small- claims action against an individual, it would go quickly through the system. [There was affirmative confirmation on the record.] She read from the bill that the court shall award civil damages in the amount of $1,000 and reasonable attorney's fees. Noting that it doesn't provide for costs, however, she asked if this was an omission, because typically one would recover [from the defendant] the costs of the filing fee, which is $35, and [service of process]. She asked if the sponsor intended to cover it [in the bill]. Number 0399 REPRESENTATIVE MEYER deferred the question to [O.C. Madden] at the Brown Jug. He also offered his belief that the half of the $1,000 which the house keeps is used to pay for the cost of the [legal] action. CHAIR MURKOWSKI asked whether an underage person who enters a liquor establishment to use the phone because of a flat tire, for example, would be prosecuted. Number 0470 REPRESENTATIVE MEYER answered that [the person wouldn't] because the person isn't trying to get into the establishment with a fake ID and under a false pretense. He said he thought there was some flexibility there with the various establishments. Number 0526 MIKE GORDON, Owner, Chilkoot Charlie's, testified via teleconference. He explained how he uses the program at his establishment by enforcing the law as it is written in the Municipality [of Anchorage]. He noted that funds received from this are distributed as follows: a third is given to the security people who make the arrest, a third goes toward collection, and a third goes to the club. MR. GORDON explained that he likes the law because it creates a consequence for the minor; in the past, there was none. These actions jeopardize people's jobs and businesses, and can go on for years without consequences. Today, the parent is notified that $1,000 is owed. Mr. Gordon said he would like to see the program go statewide because he believes it is doing the job and that the word gets around. Number 0684 REPRESENTATIVE MEYER remarked that one reason the industry asked for this ordinance in Anchorage was that when [a liquor] license comes up for renewal before the governing body, the establishment gets "dinged" if an underage person has been caught. This was an effort to get the word out to kids to not even try to come into other alcohol places if not of age. MR. GORDON responded that [Chilkoot Charlie's] not only wants kids to know that they aren't likely to get into the establishment - no matter what type of false ID is presented - but also want them to know that there are consequences, and that [Chilkoot Charlie's] will pursue it to the full extent of the law. Number 0716 MR. GORDON, responding to the question of the number of underage kids prosecuted by his establishments, said he didn't have the figure. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER remarked that he had spoken to Doug Griffin at the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board, who said 95 percent of fake IDs turned over to the ABC Board come from either Chilkoot Charlie's or the Brown Jug. MR. GORDON said [Chilkoot Charlie's] prosecutes all of them unless there are extenuating circumstances; he estimated that his business [does a citizen's arrest] four to six times a week. He said the program gives [staff] an incentive for being on their toes. In response to a question about whom the action is taken against when a kid is under 18 years of age, he said it is filed against the [minor]. As for whether the permanent fund [dividend] is garnished if the minor isn't able to pay, he answered affirmatively. MR. GORDON, in response to a question by Chair Murkowski, said if an underage person comes in because of a flat tire, [Chilkoot Charlie's] has doormen in the entryway at all times who would accommodate that person; the minor wouldn't need to come into the club. He then emphasized that [Chilkoot Charlie's] doesn't try to entrap anyone; there are big signs posted, and minors know what they are doing when coming in. CHAIR MURKOWSKI brought attention to language in the bill that refers to "if" the person enters the premises. She said regardless of whether the excuse is a blown tire, it is [the establishment's] obligation to ensure that minors aren't on the premises. Number 0955 MR. GORDON agreed and added that 99 percent of these people are caught at the door. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether [an ID] is fake; if there is question about age, [Chilkoot Charlie's] has the person fill out an affidavit and sign it. When a kid is caught and there is a photo of him or her - a fake ID or photo of the ID that was presented - and an affidavit, [the minor] doesn't have much legal standing at this point. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if fake IDs are turned over to the ABC Board, and whether there is follow-up about the status of criminal charges. MR. GORDON deferred the question to the director. He said [Chilkoot Charlie's] has handed them over on a number of occasions; however, he couldn't say what the board does with them. In response to a question, he clarified that when a minor is on the premise, a citizen's arrest is made, a police officer is called, and the minor is arrested; then a civil action is filed against the minor. Number 1070 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG referred to language in the bill stating "the damages in the amount of $1,000" and asked Mr. Gordon if he thought this was an appropriate amount. MR. GORDON said in his experience, $1,000 is adequate and is a lot of money to anybody under 21 years of age. If raised more than that, it would be too punitive. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG remarked that [an establishment] or its employees can be fined up to $50,000 for serving someone who is [underage]. MR. GORDON said that is a good point, but he didn't think there was any sense in making it so high [for minors]. Number 1183 CHAIR MURKOWSKI asked Mr. Gordon whether word is out that if a minor goes to [Chilkoot Charlie's], the minor would be caught and would have to pay a $1,000 fine. She asked if there has been a decrease in attempts by minors to get in. MR. GORDON responded that he is sure word is out; however, [minors] are still trying to get in. His establishment has actually caught a couple of people more than once. CHAIR MURKOWSKI suggested that if it were enforced consistently in all establishments, minors would really pay attention. MR. GORDON replied that if more people pursued it to the degree that [Chilkoot Charlie's] and the Brown Jug do, it would be helpful in getting the word out. He suggested that these minors look for places that are easier to enter. CHAIR MURKOWSKI asked whether Mr. Gordon has someone on staff who actually deals with these small claims, follow-throughs, and collections. MR. GORDON answered that a local attorney did for a couple of years. That attorney did wonderfully the first year, but did nothing the next year; his partner's wife ultimately took that over and continues to do so now. Number 1340 CHAIR MURKOWSKI remarked that she would like to think the legislature makes it as easy as possible to pursue the complaint through to judgment so [the establishment] can execute on the permanent dividend fund. She didn't want businesses to not pursue this as an option due to the expense associated with the judgment. Therefore, she expressed the need for this to be something that a nonattorney could perform. MR. GORDON affirmed that this is something that a nonattorney could perform. He added that it is working quite well. He offered to keep the committee informed of his progress with this. CHAIR MURKOWSKI mentioned that she was interested in whether the Brown Jug pursues the collection costs as well, because that is not included in the language of the bill. However, she felt that the establishment should be entitled to civil damages amounts as well as the recovery of costs and any reasonable attorney's fees. MR. GORDON agreed and pointed out that currently he is absorbing that cost. REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO asked whether Mr. Gordon shares the confiscated IDs or other information that he collects and whether there any correspondence between ARBA and CHARR regarding keeping a file on these minors who attempt to enter establishments. MR. GORDON replied no and remarked that administering something like that would be quite a job. The only cooperative measure he is aware of is in regard to "bad checks." Mr. Gordon added that he wasn't sure how practical setting up such a correspondence would be. Number 1515 O.C. MADDEN, Personnel Loss & Prevention Manager, Brown Jug, Inc., testified via teleconference. He informed the committee that [the Brown Jug] was part of the group that helped get this passed in 1998. He noted the Brown Jug's success with this: since July 1998 the Brown Jug has confiscated almost 500 IDs from minors. He echoed Mr. Gordon's testimony that the great thing about this is there is now a consequence for this action. He likened the process to zero-cost law enforcement because the state and the municipality don't have to spend any prosecution dollars. The only person who bears any cost is the offender. Furthermore, one great result of this law is that kids have to tell their parents. MR. MADDEN explained that the clerk would seize an ID and complete a detailed form describing the event, including witnesses. The original ID and detailed form are given to the ABC Board, and Mr. Madden retains a copy. Then a certified letter is sent to the last known address of the person, if it can be determined who the individual is. Often, these minors are using fake names. If the individual is identified, then the individual receives a certified letter demanding payment within 15 days. After the 15 days has passed, the establishment can file a small-claims action. In further response to Representative Murkowski, Mr. Madden said the Brown Jug does this in-house. CHAIR MURKOWSKI asked whether Mr. Madden is able to recover the costs. MR. MADDEN recalled that the ordinance in Anchorage allows establishments to recover reasonable attorney's fees and any court costs, in addition to the $1,000. In response to a question by Representative Meyer, he agreed that [the Brown Jug] reviews each case and does not always go for the $1,000. [The Brown Jug] seizes IDs from all minors, and if the belief is that the minor wasn't there to purchase alcohol, then a reduced amount is sought. Number 1768 CINDY CASHEN, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), noted her support of HB 214. KACE McDOWELL, Cabaret Hotel Restaurant & Retailer Association (CHARR), noted CHARR's support of HB 214. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked Mr. Madden whether, if [a minor] comes into his store to buy a Coke, that individual is carded. MR. MADDEN replied yes. He pointed out that an individual must be 21 years of age to enter the premises [of the Brown Jug]. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked what would occur if a person entered the premises in order to use the telephone. MR. MADDEN noted that there have been cases in which [the Brown Jug] has not pursued action. If it is felt that the individual is not attempting to purchase alcohol, then a reduced amount would be sought to cover costs. Mr. Madden specified that it is a class A misdemeanor for a minor to enter the premises without a parent, adult, spouse, or court-appointed legal guardian. Number 1829 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG moved that the committee adopt conceptual Amendment 1, to add language on page 1, line 9, that would allow the recovery of costs associated with filing the collection. There being no objection, conceptual Amendment 1 was adopted. [A motion to move the amended bill from committee was made, but was withdrawn in order to take up another amendment.] Number 1937 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD moved that the committee adopt conceptual Amendment 2, to insert language that in order for [a civil action to be pursued], there must have been an attempt to purchase alcohol. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG objected. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD related his belief that [an underage] person who enters the premises to use the telephone shouldn't be charged. He indicated there could be an emergency. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG pointed out that strict limitations in Alaska's liquor laws require the establishment to delineate the floor plan of the licensed premise. Representative Crawford's amendment would destroy Alaska's liquor law system. He related his belief that good judgment should prevail [in situations described by Representative Crawford]. CHAIR MURKOWSKI emphasized that this is an option available for the licensee to pursue this action. REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO mentioned that this is why some of these stores have large signs posted that say people under 21 are not permitted entrance without an adult or a legal guardian. He directed attention to page 1, line 5, of the bill, which says, "A licensee may bring a civil action". REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD withdrew his motion to adopt conceptual Amendment 2. Number 2064 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG moved to report HB 214, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note. There being no objection, CSHB 214(L&C) was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.