Senate bill seeks to ban drinking games at bars

Should the state expressly ban games and contests involving alcohol at bars — games like beer pong? Or does a law like that run the risk of targeting people simply for betting a beer over a game of darts?Senate Bill 251 — sponsored by Sen. Amanda Merrill, D-Durham, at the behest of the Dover Youth to Youth organization that works toward reducing substance abuse by their peers — doesn’t mention beer pong specifically. But it would pertain to any game in which a patron is encouraged to consume alcohol as a condition for participation or any other game that “encourages excess conception of alcohol.”(For the uninitiated, beer pong involves players throwing a ping pong ball across a table with the goal of landing it in a cup of beer at on the other end. If the ball lands in the cup, the other player must drink it.)”When they are playing games like beer pong, they tend to drink faster than they normally would,” testified Maddie Retrosi, a junior at Dover High School, at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Tuesday.The state already has laws on the books against encouraging too much alcohol consumption, said Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Henniker, owner of The Draft, a sports bar in Concord. Sanborn, who was recently promoted to vice chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, clearly indicated that he didn’t see the need for more laws.”We are already prohibited from doing what you are trying to prohibit,” he told Merrill.But Dana Mitchell, a former police captain who said he was speaking on behalf of the Dover Police Department (which sponsors Youth To Youth) said he thought the state should to spell out that prohibition.”People are more likely to follow the law if it is clearly stated, and it is our position that it is not clear,” he said. “It’s the functional equivalent of having a law on the books for drivers not to drive recklessly, saying that you don’t need rules on drinking and driving. When a lot of smart people disagree what the law says, that’s a sign we need some clarification here.”However, if you are going to go after problem drivers, “you don’t put your radar on a dead-end street,” retorted Eddie Edwards, director of enforcement and licensing for the State Liquor Commission. Most drinking games don’t occur in bars, but on campuses, he said.Edwards also echoed the view that the laws on the books, and the Liquor Commission’s regulations, already prohibit games that encourage excessive drinking.Henry Veilleux, a lobbyist for the Lodging and Restaurant Association (of which Sanborn is a board member), said the bill is an overreach and puts games like “pool and darts very much at risk.” — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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