By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEWPORT - Drinking alcohol might not come so easily to underage drinkers if the Campbell County attorney has his way.
The county attorney is seeking more power to prosecute people who provide alcohol to minors with a strict new county ordinance, commonly referred to as a keg law.
"After receiving complaints from parents about minors drinking alcohol at parties at various locations in the county, I am recommending what is known as a keg law," said Campbell County Attorney Justin Verst.
"I believe we could better control the problem of minors consuming alcohol by not only prosecuting the offender, but also those who allow minors to consume it."
The county ordinance would go one step further than the state statute: This law would make it illegal for parents to serve alcohol to their children. Verst said state law exempts parents who provide their children with alcohol.
The ordinance also would impose criminal liability upon owners, occupants or others in possession or control of property for allowing minors to consume alcoholic beverages on that property.
First-time violators would be charged with a misdemeanor and could be fined $250 or sent to jail for not more than 90 days or both, under the county ordinance. Subsequent offenses could mean a $500 fine and one year in prison.
Verst said he proposed the ordinance after several parents called the county to complain that their children are drinking in areas without keg laws. He said the proposed ordinance would help him to hold parents responsible for underage drinking.
Most cities in Campbell have adopted keg laws similar to the one he proposes for the entire county. Among the county's 15 cities that currently enforce keg laws are Alexandria, Bellevue, Fort Thomas, Highland Heights, Newport and Wilder.
Verst said that the complaints the county received involved underage drinking on the high school level, and the law wasn't specifically targeting Northern Kentucky University students.
City leaders of Lexington, who have struggled with underage drinking by UK students for years, are poised to pass their own keg law later this month.
The Lexington law would require liquor stores to tag kegs with the name of the person who purchased them. The idea is that it would make it easier for police to hold accountable adults who buy kegs for minors.
Campbell County commissioners are expected to vote on Verst's proposed ordinance by midmonth.
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