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Proposed ordinance designed to reduce underage drinking in Eureka

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EUREKA- Tuesday is the first Eureka City Council reading of an ordinance proposed by community members and designed to curb underage drinking in the city.

About one year ago, members of Humboldt Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention decided something needed to be done to address the problem of underage drinking in Eureka.

"Currently, one third of all Eureka youth have reported that within the last thirty days, they've gotten into a car with somebody who was impaired with alcohol.  So they're getting themselves in dangerous situations.  Twelve youth on average per month end up in our emergency rooms due to alcohol related issues.  That's too many," said Lou Moerner, the Chairperson of the Humboldt Allies for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Currently, laws are in place in California to charge adults responsible for allowing underage drinking on their property with a misdemeanor or felony.

“There's a big gray area about what happens when you're in private property.  And so that's what this social host ordinance does is it now creates a situation where the host is defined and the responsible person is defined," Moerner said.

The ordinance dictates the responsible adult can be subject to a $250 fine on a first offense, $500 for the second, and $1,000 for the third offense.  People who are fined will also be charged the cost of the response for the Eureka Police Department.

"The person responsible is the person who has control of the premises.  So that's not necessarily the homeowner or the landlord or the person that owns the land that they're having the party on if there's no structure.  It is the person who is the host… Our goal is to make sure that once it happens, the police are not having to come back over and over again," said Moerner.

City officials say the Social Host Ordinance, if adopted, is expected to spread awareness of the problem of underage drinking.

"Certainly, when people start seeing a neighbor or someone who's being fined for having that type of party, then I think that also gets out a certain kind of publicity," said Greg Sparks, the Eureka City Manager.

If the first reading is approved on Tuesday, the council could adopt the ordinance at the next meeting.  If that happens, it would go into effect 30 days later.