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Knocking the Keg Ban Down a Peg

Aditya Kohli

Fraternity XYZ is throwing an open party this weekend (which means B.Y.O.B. and a well organized, by-invitation-only guest list, right?). The social chairs have a tight budget and are looking for ways to cut corners. Alcohol represents the bulk of the party’s cost; and thus, alcohol expenses are the best way to cut back. There are two ways to save money: the first is to lay off the alcohol — a highly improbable solution. The second is to buy it in bulk; however, what seems practical to college students seems deadly to Boston lawmakers.

Last fall, Boston passed a law requiring all kegs sold at liquor stores in the city to be registered with the Boston Police. The police hoped to keep track of large college parties in the city and thereby regulate underage drinking. But they overlooked some major holes in the law. First, while kegs must be registered in Boston, they do not need to be registered in neighboring cities, such as Cambridge. Second, while kegs are the cheapest source of alcohol, beer balls, which contain about 30 beers, are a feasible alternative. While the ban has good intentions, its loopholes have been exploited to the point of making it useless.

Having dealt with so many thirsty college students, how na ve does Boston have to be to think that this ban would limit underage drinking? Kegs are used at parties, and parties are not going to stop. Instead, the use of kegs will stop. Kegs are used because they are a cheap way to get a lot of alcohol. Boston kegs will no longer be used because the “danger” associated with registering the party with the police will outweigh the dollars saved with a keg. Beer balls and Cambridge kegs are an easy solution to the half-hearted ban. If the city really wants to curb underage drinking, it should focus its efforts elsewhere.

Kegs are used at big parties; big parties generally occur on three nights of the week, and most campuses have only a few of these parties happening on a given night. Thus, they are not hard to track. As evidenced by the keg ban, Boston feels that the solution to the drinking problem is curbing these large parties. They are wrong; truly abusive drinking is far more abundant at smaller parties with hard liquor; I will discuss that problem in a future article.

For our purposes here, let’s assume that the true threat of underage drinking is manifested in these larger parties. Large parties have bartenders, whose function is not to check ID’s but rather to regulate the flow of alcohol. A keg is never sitting in the middle of a room, as that would not be economically sound for the hosts of the party; its contents are being regulated by the bartender. From this perspective, the keg regulations do nothing to inhibit underage drinking.

In the last two months, there have been several “busts” of college parties by the Boston Police. The two most publicized incidents, one at MIT and one at BU, had nothing to do with kegs bought in Boston, as the police obviously obtained information from other sources, namely Facebook. As the keg legislation provides the police with nothing, they should concentrate their efforts elsewhere. Cracking down on fake ID’s, working with MIT Police, and launching more undercover operations are better places to concentrate.

The keg ban is an insincere and frivolous piece of legislation that is superficial at best. It has accomplished nothing. I know Mayor Menino can do better. Letters To The EditorCorrections