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Keg buyers to register under new state law

By Jason Ragan

The Macon Telegraph  5-24-01 p1B

A new Georgia law is designed to put pressure on people who purchase beer kegs to keep tabs on who is consuming the beer.

The law, which was signed earlier this month and goes into effect July 1, requires that all kegs be registered in the store where they are purchased. The registration information, which will include the buyer's home address and a declaration of where the beer will be consumed, must be kept by the store for at least six months.

The goal of the law is to reduce underage drinking, said Joel Hardy, director of the Georgia Alcohol Policy Partnership.

He said, a lot of time, underage drinkers get older friends or family members to buy alcohol. Keg purchases have been difficult to monitor and have provided relatively easy access for those under 21, Hardy said. Until the law was passed, it was difficult for law enforcement to confirm who had purchased a keg.

"The main idea of this is to create some kind of responsibility," Hardy said. "... It is really a way of determining which adult is providing the alcohol."

William Register, owner of Silly Willy's liquor store on Pio Nono Avenue, said he doesn't have a problem with the law.

"It is going to put more of the burden on the people who are throwing the parties," Register said.

Hardy said the bill also is designed to punish those who furnish kegs to underage drinkers.

"This is a way we can really knock a dent in this," Hardy said.

But some question how much good the legislation will do.

"It is a step," said state Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon. "It has to be (one) step of many."

Brown said that while the intent is good, it is not a foolproof law.

"I think with legislation like this, there is a thousand and one ways to get around it if you have a willing adult," Brown said. "It certainly makes it a little more difficult."

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 165-5 earlier this year and unanimously by the Senate.

Ron Richardson, president of Georgia's Alcohol Dealers Association and owner of Sportman's Liquor stores, said he thinks the law will have little impact on underage drinking.

"What are they going to do next, make you register when you buy a 12-pack?" Richardson asked, adding, "It is basically a do-good, feel-good thing."

Underage drinking costs the state $2 billion a year, Hardy contends, and GAPP and others welcome any measure that can help curb the problem. Georgia ranked 12th nationally in medical costs from underage drinking, he said, ninth in injuries and death and eighth in violence attributable to alcohol.

The author of the bill, state Sen. Mike Polak, D-Atlanta, said he believes the legislation will save lives and help law enforcement agencies track adults who supply kegs to underage drinkers.

"Without this bill, it may take weeks for law enforcement to find the purchaser, if ever," Polak said.

Hardy said a 13-gallon keg of beer contains enough alcohol to put 140 teens over the .02 blood-alcohol level drunken driving limit or to put 12 teens in danger of death.

"Young people aren't able to gauge how much they have had from a keg," he said. "They aren't able to say 'I've been to the keg five or six times.'"

Richardson disagrees.

"If they drink it out of a 12-ounce can, they're going to get just as drunk," he said.

Hardy said GAPP plans to follow up the legislation with research into how it affects the problem of underage drinking.

State Sen. Sonny Perdue, R-Bonaire, said he thinks the major result of the bill will be accountability.

He said the bill is "just to make sure, if underage drinking is going on, we know who furnished it."

- To contact Jason Ragan, call 744-4225 or e-mail jragan@macontel.com.



Dr. Lindsay Holliday would add to this report that - Yes, Mr Richardson, all alcohol should be registered if not consumed on premise.  Also each container should have a unique serial number, and the contents of some may contain unique chemical tagents.

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