Party law has quiet first year in Minneapolis

Minneapolis police have issued 7 citations since enacting a social host ordinance last year.

Luke Feuerherm

Little has been heard of MinneapolisâÄô social host ordinance since the fervent debate over the measureâÄôs pros and cons that culminated in its passage last year.
While city officials are glad the ordinance hasnâÄôt led to an overwhelming wave of punishment like some opponents anticipated, the fact that Minneapolis police have only enforced the new ordinance seven times has some doubting it is really helping to combat underage drinking.
âÄúI think itâÄôs been reasonably successful,âÄù Ward 2 city council member Cam Gordon said. âÄúThe greatest hopes havenâÄôt been realized but neither have the greatest fears of those who opposed the ordinance.âÄù
Gordon first proposed the ordinance to help address issues with underage drinking and to provide a safe environment. The Minneapolis City Council passed the measure last February.
For many students, however, parties havenâÄôt changed.
âÄúThings are the same as usual, like most parties around campus,âÄù said sophomore Andrew Gould, 19, who has had police respond to noise complaints at his Northstar apartment numerous times because of parties. Police have not cited him or his roommates with social host violations, he said.
While social host has rarely been enforced, Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty said officers have welcomed the ordinance as another tool they can use.
âÄúItâÄôs like a seatbelt law,âÄù McCarty said. âÄúIf officers can stop drivers for a seatbelt, itâÄôs a great way to make sure people wear their seatbelts. So, if these people that are throwing these parties know that they can be penalized, it prevents them from doing so.âÄù
Under the ordinance, the hosts of parties which have minors present can face a misdemeanor punishable with a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. Whether a party is cited is a judgment call by the officers at the scene.
The seven incidents in the past year in Minneapolis are minimal compared to St. Cloud, Minn., where police have handed out 33 citations since the ordinance went into effect last August.
During last yearâÄôs debate on the ordinance, many greek community members voiced concerns about the treatment of their organizations, which have yet to be slapped with a social host violation despite citations during the year for minor consumption.
Gordon said the intention was not to target any groups or citizens but rather to close a loophole that had left hosts unaccountable for the minors at their homes and apartments.
He was also concerned that partiers from St. Paul had started to migrate over after that city passed a similar ordinance, which was the model for Minneapolis.
And while the main goal of the measure was deterrence, police and Gordon were unsure of whether the program has been successful in doing so.
Minnesota Student Association member Paul Buchel proposed a supportive position statement last winter, which was vehemently shot down at forum.
âÄúI was in favor initially because all this was doing was allowing police to do their job,âÄù Buchel said. âÄúNow itâÄôs the responsibility of the city council to analyze this to see if itâÄôs addressing the problem.âÄù
Gordon said now that the ordinance has had time to be fully implemented, the council will be taking a look at its effectiveness.