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Are NJ ‘Teen Nights’ Safe? [AUDIO]

Some New Jersey legislators are worried that so-called “teen nights,” where kids can hang out, dance a little and possibly meet that special someone, could be happening in places that employ sexual predators.A bill in the state legislature would establish regulations, for events targeting those under the legal drinking age, at many establishments which primarily offer dancing, entertainment, and the sale and service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.

“This bill doesn’t apply to things like an eighth grade dance,” said Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “We’re talking about places that are hosting teen night events for money. Obviously these places can’t serve alcohol on teen nights.”

The measure, also sponsored by Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson), is scheduled to be considered this afternoon by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

The bill requires criminal history background checks of all current and prospective employees who work or will work at a teen night, and prohibits any Megan’s Law registrant from serving as an employee.

“I think the bill accomplishes providing a level of security for the young people, and peace of mind for the parents,” said Coughlin. “I think it sets some very reasonable limits.”

The legislation also requires the licensee to make sure security is provided by police officers at a ratio of at least one officer for every 150 attendees, and to grant the officers full access to the building. The licensee is responsible for the cost of hiring the officers.

Licensees are also required to prohibit those:

  • over 18 years of age from attending the events, and;
  • under 15 years of age from attending the events, unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The bill already passed the full state Senate by a 31-5 vote. In the Senate, it is co-sponsored by Sens. Jim Beach (D-Cherry Hill), Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck).

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