A bill that would require retail liquor license holders to employ only individuals who are certified to sell or serve alcohol was heard by the General Affairs Committee March 4.
LB444, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, also would require that an employee or authorized representative of the licensee who is 21 years or older be on the premises at all times. Licensees in violation would have their license suspended, canceled or revoked.
The current minimum age requirement to sell or serve alcohol is 19 years old.
Krist said 19-year-olds who sell alcohol often are pressured to sell to their underage friends. If they are going to be allowed to serve alcohol, he said, they must be required to have the proper training.
The bill would create a standardized program statewide that would hold all alcohol sellers accountable, Krist said.
Hobert Rupe, executive director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, testified in support of the bill, saying that proper training and enforcement are the most effective ways to regulate alcohol sales.
Matt Stinchfield, owner of Ploughshare Brewing Company in Lincoln, also testified in support of the bill, saying it would improve public safety by reducing alcohol-related incidents resulting from minors selling alcohol to their underage peers. Standardized training should be required for the entire beverage industry, he said.
Jim Moylan, representing the Nebraska Licensed Beverage Association, testified in opposition to the bill. There currently are 80,000 alcohol servers statewide, he said, and the commission may not be able to handle certifying such a large number of people.
Kathy Siefken, executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, testified in opposition to the bill, saying it would limit the pool of people eligible to work at grocery stores. Many retail outlets employ people who are not involved with alcohol sales, she said, and if the bill passed some of those employees would require certification.
Tad Fraizer, representing the Updowntowners in Lincoln, also testified in opposition, saying it could affect the nonprofit corporations’ ability to conduct fundraising events such as festivals and street dances. Some festivals have hundreds of volunteers who would be required to become certified to sell alcohol, Fraizer said, which would be cumbersome and could deter people from volunteering for events.
Special events and festivals are important to enhancing economic development, Fraizer said, and the revenue generated from alcohol sales typically pays the costs of hosting such events.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.