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October 11, 2011 8:06 am

EDITORIAL: Underage drinking

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Culture changing, but enforcement needs to continue

If you’re under 21, buying alcohol in Powell is not as easy as it once was.

And that’s a good thing.

While the Tribune staff researched our October 1996 archives for articles about the horrific murder of Berry Bryant, we came across a startling statistic. Nine out of 11 liquor license holders in Powell failed the alcohol compliance check in 1996. That means 82 percent of local liquor establishments sold alcohol to minors during routine checks by the Powell Police Department that year.

What a difference 15 years makes.

During the police department’s round of compliance checks earlier this year, 93 percent of liquor license holders passed the check — 14 of the city’s 15 liquor license holders. And that follows a perfect round of checks in 2010.

We commend Police Chief Tim Feathers and local law enforcement officers for taking a tough stance on underage drinking, and for their work to ensure it is more difficult for minors to obtain alcohol at local businesses.

Powell’s liquor license holders also deserve recognition and praise for toughening their policies and emphasizing to their employees how important it is to check IDs.

The 180-degree turnaround in compliance checks over the past 15 years serves as evidence that the culture and attitudes toward underage drinking have changed in Powell.

John Cox, who was the police chief at the time of Bryant’s murder, told the Tribune last week: “I think Wyoming culture has evolved considerably. It’s been my impression that underage drinking education and enforcement is a lot bigger part of the culture now than back then, when it might have been a real uphill battle to get everybody to acknowledge the need for it.”

Northwest College has preserved Bryant’s story and legacy on campus, and we’re glad to see the college has taken serious steps against underage drinking and to raise awareness among college students.

Awareness also is increasing at the local government level. Under the guidance of the Park County Coalition Against Substance Abuse and a variety of residents, the city of Powell adopted community-developed alcohol guidelines last year.

There still are opportunities to get involved in the discussion about underage drinking.

A local forum about enforcing underage drinking laws takes place tonight (Tuesday) beginning at 7 p.m. at Northwest College’s Fagerberg Building Room 70. Individuals representing local law enforcement, NWC, city government and healthcare will take questions from college students and local residents regarding alcohol laws, local ordinances and NWC policies. We encourage residents to attend.

While huge strides have been made since 1996, there’s still a need for local residents, lawmakers and stakeholders in the community to examine underage drinking laws and attitudes.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link October 12, 2011 6:28 am posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    Any fool who drinks in this town,especially in a local bar,is asking for it.Do yourselves a big favor and drink at home if you must drink,but avoid ALL the local bars at any cost.Or pay the price big time.

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