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Ohio tightens rules on kegs for parties

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Shane McClintock and his six college buddies hold beer parties this year, they will face new state rules as Ohio joins other states in tracking the potential for trouble spots.

Beginning Wednesday, people who want to buy five or more kegs must register the parties and wait five days to get the goods.

Buyers must give the party sites to beer distributors, who can be punished for not requiring the information. Penalties range from a $100 fine to loss of license.

Party planners also must agree to allow liquor agents and police to enter the property to enforce state liquor laws, a requirement that bothers the American Civil Liberties Union and others.

Even police — who are supposed to benefit by being alerted to potentially disruptive parties — say the rule is easy to get around and hard to enforce.

"This is another attempt to deal with a morality issue by making rules," Kent police Chief James Peach said. "It's not so much a problem of the drinking of alcoholic beverages but rather of the behavior associated with it."

McClintock, an Ohio University senior from Dayton, rattled off several ways to throw a kegger without registering with the state. He said he and his housemates could buy a few kegs apiece or multiple cases of beer.

Several states, including New Hampshire, Kansas, Iowa and Pennsylvania, have similar regulations or are considering similar legislation. Maryland has required keg registration since 1994 to allow the containers to be traced to the buyer and the seller, both of whom are held accountable if minors are caught drinking the alcohol.

Mike Widner, assistant to the director of Ohio's Liquor Control Commission, said there are loopholes in the state's rules but it is also intended to protect distributors from being accused of selling kegs to underage consumers.

The requirement to allow police onto property is the most disturbing aspect of the rules, said Raymond Vasvari, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio.

"The provision makes people surrender their Fourth Amendment right to reasonable searches for the opportunity to engage in perfectly legal activities — being adults and drinking alcohol," he said.

Susan Watiker, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said party organizers would have the right to ask officers to leave and obtain a search warrant.

On the Net: Ohio Liquor Control Commission: www.state.oh.us/lco

Realistic Alcohol Laws for Legal Youth: web.syr.edu/~su4rally

ACLU Ohio chapter: www.acluohio.org