keg law falls flat
By Elaine Allegrini, Enterprise staff writer
In the past three weeks, Abington police charged 44 people
with underage drinking and seized alcoholic beverages, including
two kegs of beer seized at parties.
More than a decade after the state adopted a program to track
the sale of kegs, police still are unable to find out where
the two kegs were sold, Chief David Majenski said of the frustrating
effort to determine how youths are getting booze.
"In today's technology, it shouldn't be hard to do,"
the chief said.
The keg-registration program — commonly known as tag-a-keg
— is one of many programs used by the state Alcoholic
Beverage Control Commission to combat teenage drinking, according
to general counsel William Kelley.
It requires that kegs be labeled with the name and address
of the store where it was sold and an identifying serial number.
Retailers are also required to keep a record of keg sales
and purchasers and charge a registration fee of $10.
The labels, Kelley said, were meant to be pasted on the kegs
so that they would require substantial effort to remove.
Tag-a-keg and the liability of selling large quantities of
beer have some retailers refusing to sell kegs.
"When we purchased this store five years ago, we made
a decision not to sell kegs," said Ron Hamm of Central
Liquor Mart in Stoughton. "It seems like they lead to
Joe Robie said before the tag-a-keg law he sold two kegs a
week at his store, East Side Package in Brockton, but now
only sells kegs by special order and no more than two a month.
"There's a liability involved," said Robie, who
uses labels designed to adhere to moist surfaces.
Majenski said there are no labels on the kegs his officers
seized and the serial numbers have no relevance because there
is no central registry. Without teeth, a regulation intended
to combat underage drinking doesn't work, he said.
A state study — The Massachusetts Youth Behavior Study
— indicated underage drinking is down, but a poll conducted
this summer by the American Medical Association showed that
nearly all teens who want alcohol can get it, said David DeIuliis
of Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Massachusetts.
The AMA survey showed that a fair number of teens were able
to obtain alcoholic beverages at home, a significant number
from their parents, he said.
DeIuliis said an alcohol-purchase survey recently conducted
in Middleboro and Taunton also sheds light on the problem
of alcohol purchases by underage drinkers. Student volunteers
and their 21-year-old buyer went to 30 liquor stores —
21 in Taunton and nine in Middleboro.
"In Taunton, nine out of 21 establishments did not ask
for ID and in Middleboro four out of nine failed to card the
buyer," DeIuliis said, calling the results disappointing.
Even more disturbing, he said, was that The Bottle Shop in
Middleboro, cited by the ABCC for selling to an underage buyer
during a May sting, did not ask the young customer for identification.
It is recommended that establishments licensed to sell alcoholic
beverages ask everyone looking under the age of 30 for identification
proving their age.
Compliance checks — stings — conducted over the
past year by the ABCC and MADD found that one out of 10 establishments
will sell to people under the legal drinking age of 21, DeIuliis
"If we're going to stop underage drinking, it's a community-wide
response," he said.
Abington's policy is to arrest underage drinkers, including
those possessing alcoholic beverages.
Bridgewater Sgt. Christopher Delmonte said police have benefited
from changes in alcohol enforcement laws, including the host
law that makes homeowners responsible if alcoholic beverages
are served to minors.
Still, Delmonte has not seen a drop in underage drinking.
"I don't see any less of it," he said. "It
morphs into different places and avenues, changes its characteristics.
In substance, it's much the same."
"Kids are a lot sneakier now than they used to be,"
said Hanson police Sgt. Richard Gredler. "If it's in
a car, they make sure it's not visible."
Wareham police Sgt. Eileen Grady said while there are fewer
big underage drinking parties than in the past, parents are
sometimes more tolerant of alcohol.
"They say, 'Thank God it's not drugs,' '' she said. "It
doesn't have the stigma it used to have, except for the drinking