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Social Hosting Ordinance – What does it mean?

Social HostingWhat do you think of adults being held responsible for hosting a party for underage youth? What if the adult was upstairs sleeping? What if they just weren’t home? Should parents still be accountable for youth drinking alcohol in their home?

A social hosting ordinance says yes to all of the above. Parents and adults should be responsible regardless of whether they had knowledge of a party with underage drinkers at their home. The City of Rainier adopted a Social Host Ordinance in 2012 to add another layer of accountability for parents to know what activities their children are engaged in and who they are with. The reality is, it can be challenging to effectively monitor your child, but this ordinance states it is ultimately parents’ responsibility to do just that if we hope to ensure kids make wise and healthy decisions.

Here’s a summary of what the Rainier ordinance says:

  • Any person who owns, rents, leases or has a right to control private property is considered a responsible party.
  • Any person who is in immediate control of, organizes, supervises, conducts, allows or controls access to an underage drinking party is considered a responsible party.
  • An underage gathering is considered to be 4 or more persons at a property at which alcoholic beverages are being consumed or possessed by one or more underage persons, or one or more persons are exhibiting effects of consuming alcoholic beverages.
  • All known responsible persons will be penalized with a $250 fine.

In Washington State, it is against the law to sell, give, provide or permit alcohol to be provided to anyone under 21 years of age on your premises.  This includes all property: houses, buildings, other structures, vehicles and watercraft. If an adult is charged with serving a minor, they face a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to one year.

Adults also can be sued in civil court for social hosting.  According to  Underage Drinking in the Home for Washington State“The State of Washington has not enacted a law regarding civil penalties for social hosting.  In the absence of a statute, case law is mixed.”  

For years, restaurants, bars and taverns have been held liable in court for personal injuries if they over-serve alcohol to their customers.  It may not be long before these guidelines are applied to social hosting.

Please feel free to share your opinion on social hosting ordinances, or discuss changes you’d like to see made to Rainier’s Social Host Ordinance, in the comments below.



Linda Johnson

Linda is a former Program Assistant and Staff Writer for Rainier Community Cares

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