State 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 trouble."
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 said.
"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 and driving."


Copyright 2004-2008 Abington Police Department, Abington MA.
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