Why Indiana could change legal age to serve alcohol in 2020

Politics
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana could change the legal age to serve alcohol this year.

There’s a proposal that would lower the age requirement from 19 to 18. It’s all meant to help with a staffing shortage in the state.

This law wouldn’t apply to bars. It would just apply to hotels and restaurants like Eat Thai on the northwest side of Indianapolis.

“We do have some Thai beer. For sure, that’s something people love to come and try,” said owner Chotima Sall.

Thai beer is known to pair well with spicy foods, but should 18-year-old employees be allowed to serve it?

“Actually, I prefer a little bit mature to serve the alcohol,” said Sall.

However, she is happy the state is considering the option.

“More opportunity for me to hire new people," said Sall.

Right now, restaurants like this one are having trouble finding quality help. That’s why the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association says it supports the bill. Republican State Senator Ron Alting wrote the bill after leading efforts to move the age from 21 to 19 about a decade ago.

“If you would lower that age from 19 to 18, that would open the doors a little more in terms of guidelines to come in, only in a secured restaurant environment,” said Alting.

Sall isn’t sure this law would completely fix the problem.

“It’s still a big challenge,” said said.

Just like the current law, establishments still need someone over 21 to supervise the underaged alcohol servers. Currently, that’s Klara Takac's role.

“The alcohol, every time we serve it, it prints off on the ticket in the back," said Takac. "And so if I’m in the back and I see that, then I will come up to the front and double check.”

The law also requires employees 18 and older to go through an alcohol server training program. Takac took hers online.

“Age, checking ID’s, what to look for,” explained Takac.

Eat Thai management feels it’s more about whether servers are responsible at that age.

“We might have to be more cautious for the 18 people that they know enough to be able to serve the alcohol,” said Sall.

So far, this bill has yet to get a hearing, but it has been referred to the public policy committee. Sen. Alting is the chair of that committee, so it will likely get a look in the coming days.

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