Legislation would shift underage drinking blame to bartenders

A big change could be coming to the service industry as lawmakers hope to shift who is at fault for serving minors.

Right now bar owners are the ones slapped with a fine for giving drinks to people under 21, but lawmakers and supporters of a new bill said the person doing the actual serving should be at fault.

For Dillon Soma, reuniting with a buddy is always cause for celebration.

“We are just out having a good time, didn’t really have plans and decided, ‘Hey let’s go have some fun,'” he said while hanging out at Babe’s Bar in Madison.

While the 26-year-old can enjoy any beverage he chooses, Soma admits that might not always be the case with other patrons he’s seen at some bars.

“There’s the people that sneak through and you’re like ‘I don’t know if you’re 21 or not,'” Soma said.

Proposed legislation could curb serving to minors by putting more pressure on the front lines of bars.

During sting operations law enforcement would only be able to cite bartenders for serving underage patrons rather than bar owners. The change is something Mitchell Haverley, Babe’s manager and bartender, backs fully.

“The bartender should be the one held accountable,” he said. “If I’m not checking your ID, I’m the one now who’s getting in trouble and that’s the way it should be, not the responsibility of my owner.”

People have pointed out the change could significantly slow service, but others believe properly checking ID’s is well worth any wait. .

“Especially with our youth and in the state of Wisconsin it’s something that gets overlooked at times especially when it is busier,” Haverley said.

News 3 spoke to Wisconsin’s Tavern League executive director, Pete Madland, who said the blame shouldn’t be on owners unless they are the ones serving. He thinks the change would also encourage bartenders to be stricter.

Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, R-Plymouth, is the author of the bill.