Underage Drinking: Success Stories



Drinking: Success Stories




– November 15, 2002



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The OJJDP Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Initiative supports cooperation between community organizations, enforcement agencies, youth, and other concerned citizens to change local ordinances and enforcement practices.


  Making Keg Reg Work in Virginia

The community of Farmville, Virginia, has enacted a local ordinance that bolsters the State law on keg registration. As a result, local law enforcement has been better able to deal with underage drinking.

Farmville lies just west of Richmond in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Though small, the town hosts two colleges in its area, so there are a disproportionate number of young people for its size. This creates an environment ripe for underage drinking problems, and indeed, Farmville has its share. 

Many students in Farmville live off campus, and some of these subsidize their housing by hosting keg parties. Scores of partygoers will pay a few bucks each for access to a dozen or so kegs?for example, one party had nineteen kegs available. The hosts earn money from the parties, but bear little of the costs?such as property damage and lost sleep from excess noise. These parties are a choice spot for underage drinkers to obtain alcohol cheaply.

Leaders in Farmville searched for a solution to the problem. Using Virginia?s keg registration law to reduce the keg supply seemed like a promising strategy, but the Commonwealth?s Attorney for Farmville felt that the law was the jurisdiction of Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control, and thus unenforceable by the town. Undeterred, the town decided to create a keg registration ordinance that it could enforce.

They began with a public hearing, to gauge support for the ordinance. Only one speaker, a local professor, was opposed to the idea, on the grounds that it might be unconstitutional. When it went to vote, the proposed ordinance passed unanimously. 

Since then, says Town Manager Gerald Spates, ?the number of kegs sold has gone down tremendously.?

The ordinance requires that all kegs have a seal and a registration form, so that the purchaser can be identified. Police are also entitled to inspect the registered locations of kegs, to ensure that underage drinkers are not being granted access to alcohol. Though some students now go beyond city limits to acquire their kegs, according to Spates the ordinance ?has cut down considerably on the number of keg parties.?

The ordinance was not intended to be a tool to harass students. Instead, it was implemented to help make the community safer and healthier, as part of a larger strategy of reducing underage drinking. In fact, a majority of the students in the town are apparently in favor of tightening the ordinance, which is the next step for Farmville?including a two-keg-per-party limit. Furthermore, the local leaders will try to expand the ordinance to the county, to reduce imports of kegs from beyond Farmville?s jurisdiction. Through policy innovations, Farmville has become yet another community that is successfully reducing underage drinking. 


more information,

contact Gerald Spates, Town Manager of Farmville, VA, at 434-392-5686.


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