This Thursday, the Maryland State Senate will be voting to pass new legislation to stop all drinking games at bars. While the legislation focuses on a 2-year, city-wide ban on bars promoting or holding Beer Pong events, the last paragraph (below) is open for interpretation and may cause many drinking events at bars within the city limits to become defunct.
The official online version of the bill can be found here: http://mlis.state.md.us/2009rs/bills/sb/sb0233f.pdf.
Some people are arguing that there is no need for such a bill, as there are many laws in place already to stop binge drinking in bars, and are emailing Sen. George W. Della to tell him about their displeasure.
Here are a few of those letters:
Maryland State Senators,
I am writing to you today in regard to a piece of legislation which has already come across your desk.
On 12 February 2009, you will be asked to vote on SENATE BILL 233 – Baltimore City – Alcoholic Beverages – Expiration of Licenses – Drinking Games.
As a District 7 resident of Baltimore County, who frequently travels to the city for social events, athletic teams, sporting events, concerts, fund raisers, and social events, I am appalled by the vague and ambiguous language used in Bill233, Article 2B, section (B) of the bill. While the Bill in its intent may seem simplistic in creating an improved quality of life for the residents of OUR fair city – I fail to see the legitimacy in eliminating any and all games which involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages in properly licensed establishments. What your fellow legislator, George Della, fails to understand is that the language chosen in the legislation is ambiguous and may cause limitation to our civil liberties as proud tax paying citizens. Furthermore, the measure as written blurs the line between what constitutes a “game” and a “drinking game” and may allow for further scrutiny from those paid to protect our city and uphold its laws.
Excerpt in question from said bill:
(B) A HOLDER OF A RETAIL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES LICENSE OR OWNER OR OPERATOR OF A BOTTLE CLUB MAY NOT PROMOTE, ENCOURAGE, OR ALLOW ON THE PREMISES A GAME COMMONLY KNOWN AS BEER PONG OR ANY OTHER GAME OR CONTEST THAT INVOLVES DRINKING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES OR THE AWARDING OF DRINKS OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES AS PRIZES
If our fathers were shooting pool in a league such as the APA while enjoying a draft, or our uncles were enjoying a game of spades while drinking their favorite whiskey, or our friends played darts in a dart league while drinking, they would all be breaking the law in the simplest sense if the bill currently up for consideration is ratified as written. As a responsible representative of our state, I arduously request that you vote against Bill 233 – Baltimore City – Alcoholic Beverages – Expiration of Licenses – Drinking Games- until Mr. Della drafts a more succinct and concise version of the bill which would allow everyday citizens to play pool in a league, play cards with friends, etc… and enjoy the drink of their choosing without breaking any laws during said activities.
Truthfully, as written, this bill could be so interpreted to eliminate drinking at the soon-to-be determined site for slot machines. Mr. Della should be more careful when choosing language for state bills. Please consider discussing the language used in other states, which have similar drinking game restrictions, before approving this Bill.
Concerned Maryland citizen
And another letter:
I have recently been made aware of a bill to make “drinking games” illegal in city bars/venues. When told of this, my first instinct was to laugh, as certainly no elected official would waste his or her time, reputation and tax payer money with such a trivial matter when there are much more pressing concerns facing our great city. Most notably I bring the Zach Sowers case to mind. http://www.zachsowers.com/NNO2.php As a fellow city resident/taxpayer/voter, this could have been me or any of my friends. With both reductions in force and budget affecting police that are already having problems keeping violent crime off our streets I wonder where your priorities are?
If your fears are linked to over-consumption of alcohol and it’s downstream effects, there are already mechanisms in place to control/penalize bars for serving these individuals. If gambling on games is the problem (I recently read an article about Michael Phelps’ foolish behavior), it is already illegal and is the exception not the rule. If drinking alcohol is the problem, prohibition did not work and games will simply move underground. If you are having trouble enforcing these existing measures, how will you enforce new legislation?
If however, your intent is to look foolish with your legislative priorities, alienate your voting base, damage local business in a time of economic hardship, and show us you are willing to do nothing about true crime, perhaps it is time we, the voters, reconsider our faith in all locally elected officials.
Thank you for your time,