Keg tracking legislation passed

In an effort to minimize underage drinking on college campuses, all keg sales made in Indiana will be documented and the sellers will track the vessels.

The keg-tracking legislation, Bill 97, was authored by Senator Beverly Gard and is effective July 1, 2003. It passed the Indiana State Senate in late January and the House of Representatives later in February.

"Keg tracking will assist in holding the purchaser responsible if he or she provides a keg for underage consumption," Gard said.

In Bill 97, a "keg" is defined as a brewery-sealed individual container of beer destined for retail sale and having a liquid volume of at least seven and three-fourths gallons.

The bill mandates that purchasers sign a receipt of sale, which the seller then keeps on file. Each keg will be marked with identification designed to be removed by the wholesaler upon refilling the container.

"We're not under the illusion that this will solve the drinking problem entirely," Gard said. "This will just be another tool in reducing the amount of underage drinking on college campuses."

She believes the bill will result in fewer kegs being purchased for college parties, and thus it will help save lives by reducing consumption by college students.

"Students drink more when from a keg than when they drink can by can," Gard said.

Representative R. Tiny Adams said he agrees with the author's intentions, but has doubts about the law's future success.

"The bill is not written in strong enough language to really change anything," he said.

Students representing several schools, including Ball State, Indiana University and Purdue, testified in the Indiana Senate about the prevalence of kegs on their respective campuses, Gard said. The students agreed that the average number of drinks per person would drop significantly if kegs were not present.

"In the past fraternity-house parties have quickly concealed kegs when police arrive at the scene," Gard said. If fewer kegs are purchased for such events, it will be more difficult to hide hundreds of beer cans when authorities discover a party with underage drinking.

"Right now, kegs are not seized each and every time they are found at parties," said Robert Fey, deputy chief of the Ball State Police Department. "If arrests associated with the keg are made, if officers file charges or if the keg would act as evidence in a case, then kegs are confiscated."

Police officers occasionally return a keg and tap to the store marked on the container when it is removed from a party location, but Ray said it is not standard procedure.

"The Indiana Beverage Alliance is luke-warm on this issue," Gard said. "They have only said that they will not oppose the bill."

"This law might cause problems for the IBA," Adams said. "They're already overworked and understaffed."

There are 700,000 kegs sold in Indiana every year, according to the IBA, a figure projected to decrease when tracking is enforced.

"We've not been met with strong opposition by retailers, so far," Gard said. "This will eliminate any liability a seller might encounter for supplying alcohol if underage drinkers are found with a keg."

"We're not sure yet how it will be enforced, but we'll expect to see an increase in the number of cases (of beer) sold when kegs are tracked," said Rob Hook of Friendly Package Liquors in Muncie. He believes underage drinking might decrease as a result of the new law.

"We sell about 50 or 60 kegs a week at our Wheeling Avenue location alone (during the academic year)," said James, an employee at Tillotson Avenue's Muncie Liquor Store. He also foresees a drop in keg sales and a subsequent rise in cans and bottles of beer when tracking begins.

Muncie Liquor Stores and Friendly Package Liquors sell at least 90 percent of the kegs in Delaware County, Adams said.

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