State considering party bus rules

Courtesy PhotoJerry Hill

Courtesy PhotoJerry Hill

Legislation that would require party bus operators to check identification of those on board or face hefty fines is before the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee today.

The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is aimed at curbing underage drinking by closing a loophole in a law adopted in the 1980s that required similar actions by limousine drivers.

Hill introduced Assembly Bill 45 in 2010 after 19-year-old San Mateo County teen Brett Studebaker was killed in an auto accident on U.S. Highway 101 following hours of drinking on a party bus in San Francisco. His blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit of 0.08.

“This is essentially booze cruises on wheels,” Hill said Monday during an appearance on Polk Street, which party buses are known to frequent, to urge passage of the legislation.

Under the law, party bus operators would be required to verify that all passengers are older than 21, the legal drinking age. If there are minors aboard, Hill said, a chaperone who is older than 25 would have to accompany the party. And alcohol would have to be banned from the bus’s main compartment.

If the regulations were not followed, bus operators would face a $2,000 fines and lose their licenses.

“This is about holding party buses accountable,” Hill said. “These buses have become a problem for businesses and owners.”

Party buses are not new to San Francisco. For years, The City’s Entertainment Commission has heard complaints about inebriation and noise.

Jocelyn Kane, executive director of the commission, said she hopes the bill spurs the creation of rules for an industry that has largely been unregulated.

“These people come into The City already drunk and all they’re doing is becoming a nuisance of business owners,” Kane said. “This bill gives the responsibility to a person, and I think we’ll see an immediate response” from the industry.

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