The California Supreme Court declared Monday that hosts who charge a cover fee for entrance into parties can be held liable for underage drinkers who become intoxicated and cause harm to others or themselves, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The court ultimately decided in an unanimous ruling that a cover charge for a party was tantamount to a sale of alcohol and that if minors were present, the hosts would be violating state law.
Some students worry about the implications the ruling has for college campuses such as USC, where some parties have cover fees.
Lauren Egan, a sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering, disagrees with the ruling and believes that it is an issue of individual responsibility.
“I don’t think an organization or a party host should be held responsible,” Egan said. “I think there’s a lot of finger pointing in general. We are legally adults, a lot of us are from 18 to 21 years old and I think that’s old enough to be aware of how much we’re consuming and policing ourselves and to be aware of our actions.”
Other students, such as Max Quilici, a sophomore majoring in pop music, found reason in the court’s ruling.
“I think that decision makes sense to me,” Quilici said. “If a bar is letting people in and selling alcohol to customers, they’re expected to make sure the customers are of age. If you’re the host of a party, it makes sense that you would be expected to make sure the attendees are of age if you’re furnishing alcohol.”
Quilici, however, also believes that cover fees at student parties can be a positive thing for USC students and organizations.
“I think it’s awesome and I’ve seen a lot of young bands fund parts of their record from covers and donations at parties,” he said.
The USC SoCal Vocals, a student a cappella group, is one organization that has used cover fees at parties as fundraising that goes beyond offsetting the costs of alcohol.
“The cover charge our student organization has for parties is not necessarily exclusively used to cover costs of music or drinks and the throwing of the party itself, but for endeavors and goals we are pursuing as a group,” said Myles Nuzzi, business manager for the SoCal Vocals, in an email.
Nuzzi mentioned that the SoCal Vocals used money they fundraised from cover charges at parties to enable them to release an album and compete in international competitions.
“The cost of recording and mixing tracks is astronomical,” Nuzzi wrote. “If we were not able to host parties, we would have trouble pursuing all of these efforts, as would many student organizations who are constantly fundraising.”
In light of the new ruling, Nuzzi encouraged campus organizations to explore alternative methods of fundraising. He mentioned that the SoCal Vocals uses Kickstarter, Indiegogo, album sales and performances already.
“Parties are not the end-all,” he wrote.
Other student organizations that host parties for fundraising were contacted but did not reply in time for print.