A tragic crash in Tallahassee last summer has prompted new legislation aimed at restaurant and bar owners, with underage employees on staff.
By underage, we mean under the legal drinking age of 21. A bill awaiting the governor's signature stiffens penalties for any business that allows those employees to drink before, during or after work.
Nineteen-year-old Christopher Fugate died just minutes after leaving work at Hooters last summer, court records show he had had a few beers with his co-workers, and when he crashed into a utility pole, his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
Tallahassee Police Chief Walt McNeil says newly passed legislation that he and his investigators helped to write, is a direct result of that crash.
The manager on duty at Hooters that night, could only be charged with a second degree misdemeanor for serving Christopher alcohol. Now, lawmakers have upped the penalties in hopes that employers will think twice before letting their underage employees drink.
Andrews restaurant has quite a few 19 and 20 year olds on its wait staff, especially during the school year. The owner says he keeps a list of who’s of legal age, and who's not, and he makes sure his bartenders use it.
"This is our own crew. It's gonna be tough to defend ourselves in court, saying we didn't know this person wasn't 21, when they work for us. So I've been making a big deal out of it already."
The Fugate law is still awaiting the governor's signature. We want to point out the Hooters manager charged in this case plead no contest. She was sentenced to a month in the sheriff's work camp and 150 community service hours with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.