One of Georgia’s newest laws may change the downtown bar scene this year. People under 21 will not be allowed to enter a bar, an establishment that receives 75 percent or more total annual gross revenue from alcohol sales, unless they are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years of age or older, as spelled out in Michael’s Law.
The law, which was signed July 1, was created because underaged Georgia Southern student Michael Gatto died after allegedly being beaten by an underaged bouncer in a Statesboro bar.
Michael’s Law addresses concerns about current age restrictions in bars and the reporting of disciplinary actions taken inside bars.
All bouncers have to be at least 21 years of age, and any “disciplinary action” taken inside the bar must be reported within 45 days to a governmental entity, according to the official statute. “Disciplinary action” is defined by the statute as any citation or arrest due to any violation that involves alcoholic beverages.
Failure to comply with the law could result in a fine up to $750 for each violation. If another violation occurs within a three year period of the last violation, the bar or person could see punishments such as revocation, suspension or cancellation of the license.
Contrary to popular belief, the law does not require bars to provide training to their employees or to have liability insurance, reports Michele Stumpe, Taylor English Duma LLP.
Freshman Brianna Neese, 18, said she understands the need for these rules, but argues they may be too restrictive.
“Just because you’re at a place that sells alcohol doesn’t mean you’re there to drink,” Neese said. “It’s fun to go out with your friends and to just have fun. You can still be safe and not drunk to do that.”
While the age requirement is extended to the patrons, Michael’s Law states that this rule does not apply to students who have paid an admission fee to attend a concert or “live presentation of the performing arts,” according to the bill.
One of Mercer’s most popular downtown venues, The Crazy Bull, responded to concerns about Michael’s Law on their Facebook page last month.
“Eighteen-20 year olds can enter as long as they have paid to see a concert or performing arts show, which is what we do every minute that we are open,” a representative of The Crazy Bull posted on Facebook.
“[They] can still enter to watch our concerts and DJs perform.”