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Group wants 160 local businesses to sign pledge to help stop underage drinking

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By Jesef Williams

Businesses that sell alcohol are being asked to help curtail underage drinking in this area.

The Lancaster County Prevention Coalition is asking restaurants, bars and other establishments  to sign a covenant that says they will not sell alcohol to minors and will help patrons make better decisions.

Prevention coalition members and a group of volunteers went out to businesses Thursday seeking their participation.

The coalition is funded largely by the federal Drug Free Community Support program, which requires participating groups to lead initiatives that foster environmental change.

“It’s the next logical step for us – focusing on making environmental change in Lancaster County,” said Becky Catoe-Aikey, co-chairwoman of the prevention coalition’s business covenant subcommittee. “Our big hope is to reduce underage drinking and help people make healthy choices in regards to drinking.”

Catoe-Aikey said nearly 160 businesses in Lancaster County will be asked to sign the covenant, which also include taverns, grocery stores, convenience stores and other places that sell alcohol.

Businesses that participate will get a certificate to display and free training on ways to help people make healthy choices. For example, waiters or waitresses may suggest that patrons eat an appetizer while drinking or take more time between drinks.

Lancaster Police Capt. Harlean Howard said driving under the influence and underage drinking continue to be problems. She believes this local covenant, coupled with the new statewide initiatives targeted at businesses, will be beneficial.

“It will be helpful in that it raises the awareness and keeps them (businesses) mindful that underage drinking is a serious problem,” Howard said.

Town hall meeting

The Lancaster County Prevention Coalition, which has representation from more than 40 public, private, civic and faith-based organizations, plans to hold a town hall meeting later this month about underage drinking. A date hasn’t been confirmed yet, although organizers say it may be held at Lancaster High School.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or 283-1152