Law allowing teens to serve alcohol nixed by Niles Village Board
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:10AM
NILES — An ordinance that would have allowed 18-year-old waiters and waitresses to serve alcoholic beverages in restaurants was turned down by the Niles Village Board of Trustees on Nov. 27.
Mayor Robert Callero said he had spoken to a few restaurant owners in town who expressed an interest in hiring more college-age students to work as waiters and waitresses, prompting the board’s discussion.
But some trustees were concerned with what they felt was a blurry line between 18-year-olds serving alcohol and selling alcohol.
“The sale takes place at the cash register,” Village Attorney Joe Annunzio told the trustees. “The sale does not take place at the table.”
Annunzio said a state law allows people 18 to 20 years old to serve, but not sell, alcohol. Many municipalities have set their own laws stating that servers must be at least 21. Annunzio said Niles has had this requirement for as long as he can remember.
Katie Schneider, executive director of the Niles Chamber of Commerce, said that Tony Riggio, owner of Riggio’s restaurant, informed her that allowing 18- to 20-year-old waitresses and waiters to serve alcohol would benefit his business.
Schneider said that Riggio wanted to increase his pool of potential part-time employees. She added that she also reached out to Amici’s and Chambers restaurants and they agreed with Riggio.
“All small business and businesses in general are struggling,” said Schneider.
Trustee Rosemary Palicki said she felt the village would be sending a mixed message to teens by allowing them to serve alcohol in restaurants. She said the village should be focused on sending the message that teens shouldn’t be drinking alcohol.
“It’s our responsibility to not weaken that message to our teens,” Palicki said.
A resident who spoke out against approving the ordinance said he felt drinking is a big problem and expressed concerns that an underage waitress or waiter may serve alcohol to underage friends who come into a restaurant.
Schneider said that places such as Riggio’s that are well-respected and have been in the community for many years would not risk their reputations by hiring the wrong person.
Niles Police Chief Dean Strzelecki said that the current law, requiring servers to be at least 21 years of age, is easier to enforce than the new ordinance would have been if it had been approved.