Social Host Ordinance will hold party hosts accountable for underage drinking

Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick

(Graphic by Julia Rentsch)
(Graphic by Julia Rentsch)

Hosting parties is about to become much riskier – on Tuesday, April 19 Fort Collins City Council approved the Social Host Ordinance. The ordinance passed on the first reading with only one vote against it.

“What the Social Host Ordinance does is it makes it unlawful to provide a location were underage drinking can occur,” said Gordon Coombes, the executive director of Team Wellness and Prevention, the non-profit that presented the idea.

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The Social Host Ordinance was proposed as a way of combating underage drinking and drug use in the community. 

“It makes it illegal to provide a location where illegal activities, in this case underage consumption of alcohol or marijuana, is occurring,” Coombes said.

 Coombes hopes that giving civil infractions will change the culture around underage drinking, as infraction will result in civil penalties and not give hosts a criminal record.

“People will be learning that ‘Hey, we can’t provide a location where this activity is happening,’” Coombes said.

Police will have to right to ticket hosts even if the party is not deemed a nuisance, all officers need is a report that people are drinking alcohol or consuming marijuana underage.

“The police felt that having this additional tool in their tool box will allow them to do some more enforcement in areas that are currently unable to be enforced,” said City Councilmember Ross Cunniff.

Cunniff voted for the ordinance on Tuesday.

“The power of that is that presumably, the host of a party is in fact generally present and responsible for what is going on at the party” Cunniff said. “And this allows that consequence to float to the host of the party where that illegal activity is going on.”

Similar ordinances have been in effect in other cities in Colorado including Steamboat and Gunnison, as well as other college towns around the country like Eugene, Oregon and Tempe, Arizona.  

“It’s really more of an opportunity to educate people in the community that there’s some serious dangerous behaviors associated with underage drinking,” said City Councilmember Kristin Stephens.

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Stephens listed binge drinking, alcohol poisoning, more frequent sexual assault, cyberbullying and suicidal thoughts as some of these dangerous behaviors that result from underage drinking.

The ordinance will not result in jail time or criminal records and fines for civil offense cannot exceed $2,750 according to city code.

Collegian news reporter Tatiana Talesnick-Parafiniuk can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @tatianasophiapt.