By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was generated in response to readers who wanted to know more of the particulars regarding an alleged assault and related underage drinking incident in early March. ‘The Banner’ requested and reviewed police reports relating to the incident. As we reported on March 11, a male who is no longer enrolled at UW-W was cited with disorderly conduct (assault) and underage presence in a licensed establishment. The Banner found nothing particularly newsworthy about the assault investigation, but did research the age requirements for bartenders. No editorial position regarding existing underage drinking regulations is intended.
Further examination of a Whitewater incident that occurred after bar time the night of Thursday March 4 brought to light the fact that in Wisconsin 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds can tend bar in an establishment restricting attendance to those age 21 and above.
The police report indicates that the man and a woman that he is accused of striking were both underage and had been in a tavern before the incident occurred.. The young woman was employed as a bartender at the establishment but was in the tavern as a customer at the time.
Municipal citations for “underage presence in a place prohibited” which require a deposit of $376 were issued to the assaulted woman and the man. A citation requiring a deposit of $691 was issued to the tavern owner for “licensee sell(ing) alcohol (to an) underage person.”
We asked Whitewater Police Chief Aaron Raap about the impact of underage bartenders here in Whitewater and although he was not “overly enthusiastic” about the policy he did not think that preventing underage bartenders alone would have a significant impact on underage drinking in the city. We also asked a WI Tavern League spokesperson to comment on the issue. Pete Madland advised us that, “Thousands of Wisconsin college students have helped pay for college by tending bar.” He added that “Technically an 18-year-old can be the owner of a Wisconsin tavern” and added that past efforts to raise the required age for bartending have failed.
City Attorney Wally McDonell and an attorney for the WI Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) were both asked if the City could pass an ordinance requiring city bartenders to be 21 or older. Both replied that the state law would most likely prevent the City from doing so.