Social Host (Minor Alcohol Offenses) Ordinance

On Tuesday, April 27, the Napa County Board of Supervisors will consider revising the County’s Minor Alcohol Offenses Ordinance, which was originally adopted in 1996. The Minor Alcohol Offenses Ordinance (Chapter 9.12 of Title 9 of the Napa County Code) prohibits gatherings on private property where underage drinking is allowed to occur. These types of ordinances close unsafe loopholes in existing State law related to “social hosting” and the possession or consumption of alcohol by underage persons.

Underage Drinking in Napa County

Social Host Ordinances are an effective tool in helping to reduce the problem of underage drinking. Napa County youth report high levels of underage drinking and youth access to alcohol is a key factor contributing to the problem. The problem of underage drinking in Napa County is illustrated by the statistics below.

  • 30% of Napa County 9th and 11th graders report obtaining alcohol at parties or events outside school. This response was one of a dozen options and was far greater than fake identification (1%), stealing from stores (2%) or shoulder tapping[1] (1%).
  • 50% of Napa County 11th graders say it is “very easy” and 26% say “fairly easy” for students in their grade to get access to alcohol.
  • 29% of Napa’s 11th graders report “binge drinking” within the past month. Almost half of all Napa County 11th graders (48%) have “binged” (been drunk or sick after drinking), a higher rate than California students (46%)[2].

These statistics confirm that our community must come together to prevent and treat underage drinking.

Minor Alcohol Offenses Ordinance (Social Host Ordinance)

Currently, Napa County has an ordinance to address youth access to alcohol on private property. The Proposed Ordinance (PDF) repeals this ordinance and replaces it with one that is better aligned with best practices.

The current ordinance is limited to gatherings where alcoholic beverages are in the possession of, or being consumed by persons under age 21. The current ordinance does not impose civil fines for individuals found to be in violation of the code but rather, is treated like a misdemeanor. The current ordinance provides for cost recovery for public safety responses only where a responsible party hosts a loud and unruly gathering where alcohol is served or possessed by minors.

The proposed ordinance has two components for violations:

  1. The first component addresses loud and unruly gatherings where alcohol is served to, consumed by or in possession of underage persons. If law enforcement determines that an underage person was served alcohol or allowed to consume or possess alcohol they can be fined $500 for a first offense, $750 for a second offense and $1000 for a third offense.
  2. The second component addresses loud and unruly gatherings on private property whether or not alcohol is served to, consumed by or in possession of underage persons. A warning will be given the first time law enforcement comes to a property where there is a loud and unruly gathering but no evidence of underage drinking. If law enforcement is called to the same property for a loud and unruly gathering within a  six month period, the responsible party maybe billed for all public safety response costs associated with responding to a complaint for a loud and unruly gathering. This could include costs for the Sheriff’s Deputies, fire, ambulance or other emergencies services.


[1] 2009 Napa County Report, California Healthy Kids Survey, 2009.

[2] 2009 Napa County Report and 2007 State CSS comparisons, California Healthy Kids Survey, 2009.