Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska) authored the bill with hopes of curbing binge drinking among college students. Minnesota’s legal drinking age went from 19 to 21 in 1986, when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act threatened federal highway funding for non-complying states.
Sitting at The Dubliner Pub in St. Paul, David Jones is a long way from his roots in England. He’s also long past 19-years old, but he can’t help but think of a simpler time.
“You can go into a pub when you’re 16, and you’re allowed to legally drink when you’re 18,” Jones said.
Despite a later drinking age, Jones said the United States has developed a troubling culture.
“Binge drinking is the thing to do, rather than just treat it as an afternoon drink – have one or two and go home,” Jones said.
That’s exactly why Rep. Hoppe wants to lower the legal drinking age.
“I’m not naive enough to think they won’t drink in college, but at least they wouldn’t be doing as much binge drinking,” Hoppe said. “That’s the idea behind it.”
Ryan Warnsholz, like the Department of Public Safety and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, thinks the drinking age is right where it should be.
“If the legal limit is 19, that’s not far from 18 and not that far off from 17,” Warnsholz said. “Nineteen seems like a young age to handle drinking.”
Rep. Hoppe said the biggest roadblock is the potential for losing federal money.
“If we can remove the risk of losing federal highway funds, I would move forward with this bill,” Hoppe said. “I think I would have wide bipartisan support for it.”
If that day ever does come, The Dubliner’s owner Tom Scanlon knows just the place.
“Let them have all the beer they want,” Scanlon said. “They’re drinking anyhow, they might as well come in here and spend a few dollars.”
Rep. Hoppe hopes to get the bill a committee hearing within the next few weeks.