Last week, the Casper City Council advanced a new ordinance that would make it illegal to overserve alcohol. Bartenders and cocktail servers would be responsible for recognizing when a patron is over their limit and refusing to continue serving them. But the ordinance goes even one step further – now local residents would be liable for overserving alcohol in their own homes.
This board agrees that overserving is a problem in Casper and encouraged the city to work with bar and liquor store owners on a set of rules that are effective and enforceable. But we were critical of the ordinance before – enforcing such a standard in bars would be hard enough, especially because it offers no clear definition of when a person would be considered overly intoxicated. But to extend the ordinance to include private residences? There is no shortage of challenges there.
In about a week, Casper residents will be gathering with friends to watch the Super Bowl. Coolers and fridges will be stocked with beer. Are homeowners then expected to man those coolers and count every drink their guests consume? Should they hand out drink tickets? This would certainly be absurd.
In a bar or restaurant, a police officer could come inside and check on the situation. If a patron seems too intoxicated, the officer could follow up on who was serving them and how many they’d had. But in a home, a police officer couldn’t just come in and survey the situation. The only way to enforce this ordinance then, would be if a person left a private residence, was pulled over or arrested for some kind of alcohol-related crime and then told the officer where they’d been drinking.
But this seems pretty antithetical to how our justice system operates. If you drink at someone’s home and then leave and commit a crime, the choices that led you to that point were your own. And whomever provided the alcohol that played a role in those decisions shouldn’t be held accountable for your actions. Could you imagine a person pulled over for a DUI saying, “It’s not my fault. My friend let me drink beer at his house”? We doubt the officer would let such a person off the hook.
This ordinance seeks to undermine personal responsibility – and that isn’t the Wyoming way.
Over-consumption of alcohol by some people may be an issue in our community. And it’s clear that our police chief would like to see something done about those folks. We agree that it should be addressed. We just don’t think this is the way to do it.