Fewer Berkeley Businesses Selling Alcohol to Minors

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday May 01, 2007

The California State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) announced Friday that alcohol violation rates have dropped in Berkeley. 

Present at the press conference were the Berkeley Police Department, the UC Berkeley Police Department, UC Berkeley Associate Chancellor John Cummins, the UC Berkeley Party Safe program and Students for a Safer Southside. 

“What started out in 2003 as increased enforcement and education efforts is helping to reduce alcohol-related incidents in Berkeley and on the UC Berkeley campus,” said John Carr, an ABC spokesperson. 

“We heard from communities that the quality of life has improved. There are fewer loud parties and fewer alcohol sales to minors. When we provided this Grant Assistance Program (GAP)—$40,000 to the UCBPD and $85,000 to the BPD—this was exactly the kind of results we were looking for. The new resources from the grants have led to more ID checks as well as shoulder-tap decoy operations.” 

“Shoulder tap” involves a minor under the direct supervision of a peace officer who stands outside a liquor or convenience store and asks patrons to buy them alcohol. Once an adult agrees to purchase it for them, they are arrested and cited for their action. 

“Students have criticized the GAP in the past,” said Nima Golzy, a junior at Cal who was representing Students for a Safer Southside. “They claim that the student population is being targeted. But people who vocalize against these grants are the ones who want to hold parties where alcohol is served to minors. They don’t want any regulations.” 

Since the dispersal of grant money in 2003, 2,283 arrests were made through the combined efforts during alcohol-related enforcements. 

“When police started running compliance check operations in 2003, over 50 percent of the businesses that were visited sold alcohol to minors,” said Steve Hardy, the newly appointed director of ABC. “Today that figure is approximately 20 percent. We have warned, fined, suspended and revoked alcoholic beverage licenses of businesses that sold alcohol to minors. Alcohol is a problem. It’s a drug. We want to work hard to slow it down.” 

Lt. Doug C. Wing of the UC Berkeley police said that education and outreach were equally important. 

“Our efforts have certainly made students more aware of the problem,” he said. “There are fewer fights in the South Campus area. But the allure of coming to Telegraph Avenue is still there and that is a district we pay a lot of attention to.” 

Ralph Adams, a member of the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition, said that it was pertinent that a program of “outreach-education-monitoring-enforcement” be conducted by the city. 

“Besides alcohol, there are other issues such as violence and loitering with the intention of drug dealing and prostitution that need to be addressed in the neighborhoods,” he said. 

John Cummins, associate chancellor at UC Berkeley, told the Planet that enforcing alcohol policies was a huge challenge for the university. 

“For many students, this is the first time away from home,” he said. “The drinking pattern is established in the first three months of the freshman year. This is the time when they need to be educated about drinking responsibly. Also, the frats need to manage their parties carefully and we need to patrol Southside as frequently as possible.”