Mendota Heights cracks down on underage drinking

‘Social host’ ordinance makes property owners, adults in family responsible

If you attend a holiday party in Mendota Heights and your host asks for ID, don’t get offended.

It’s probably not an issue of faulty memory, but rather a move to comply with a new social host ordinance under consideration by the Mendota Heights City Council.

The ordinance would make it unlawful for residents to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place. The ordinance considers adult family members of the property owner who are present at the events to be hosts, as well as tenants who throw parties on rented property.

Landlords and property owners who are away from their property when underage drinking takes place would be excluded from culpability provided they were unaware the drinking was taking place.

“The idea of this ordinance is to keep underage people from getting alcohol and causing harm to themselves,” Police Chief Mike Aschenbrenner told the city council at the Dec. 3 meeting where he presented the ordinance. “This gives us another tool in the toolbox to deal with these parties as they’re going on in a private residence.”

A statewide issue

Since 2006, 97 cities and 22 counties, including Dakota, have added some type of social host ordinance. (Dakota County’s social host laws only apply to unincorporated areas.) South St. Paul also has its own social host ordinance.

Aschenbrenner told the council Mendota Heights’ ordinance was motivated by several problem properties police identified as havens for underage drinking during the summer of 2012. Without a social host ordinance, however, officers were dependent on receiving disturbance calls or other complaints to take action.

The proposed ordinance would open make it a misdemeanor offense to allow underage consumption at events, and carries penalties of up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,000.

Parents who provide their own children with alcohol in their residence and under supervision would not be charged under the ordinance.

“This has my total support,” Council member Liz Petschel said. “We may never have another situation like that (the summer of 2012). I hope we don’t. But if we do, then it would make it a lot easier for you  to act with greater expediency and be able to nip the problem in the bud.”

Luke Reiter can be reached at or at 651-748-7815.

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