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North Dakota lawmakers loosen rules on letting kids in alcohol-serving restaurants

The proposal, sponsored by Minot Republican Rep. Scott Louser, would allow people under 21 to enter and remain in the restaurants if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian, seated at least three feet from the bar and leave by 10 p.m.

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Aaron Hill, co-owner of Fargo Brewing Co., listens to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday, March 19, as he announces the statewide closure of bars and restaurants due to the coronavirus. David Samson / The Forum

BISMARCK โ€” The North Dakota Senate voted 31-15 on Tuesday, March 9, to approve legislation that would ease the regulations on allowing people under 21 in alcohol-serving restaurants.

The House of Representatives already approved House Bill 1184 , which will now go to Republican Gov. Doug Burgum's desk.

The proposal, sponsored by Minot Republican Rep. Scott Louser, would allow people under 21 to enter and remain in alcohol-serving restaurants if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian, seated at least 3 feet from the bar and leave by 10 p.m. There are currently stricter regulations on allowing minors in booze-serving restaurants, including the requirement that restaurants physically separate drinking areas from eating areas.

Supporters of the bill say it would benefit rural areas where sometimes the only eating establishment in town doubles as a bar. Rudie Martinson, director of the North Dakota Hospitality Association, testified in favor of the bill, noting it could help the hard-hit restaurant industry climb out of the tough times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Department of Human Services came out against the bill, arguing that loosening the rules on letting kids in bars could counter progress made through alcohol-prevention initiatives.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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