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Bill passes that allows youth in North Dakota bars for food

A bill that would allow minors in bars under certain circumstances created some small town versus big town debate in the state House on Monday.

House Bill 1307 would allow minors in bars if they are there to eat, if the bar serves tabletop food prepared in a kitchen with at least an indoor grill and if the bar is smoke-free.

The bill passed with a 50-42 vote, despite a do-not pass recommendation from the Human Services Committee.

The committee debated the bill at length, said Rep. Curt Hofstad, R-Devils Lake. It got to the point where it became "a nightmare" for law enforcement, parents, bar owners and competing establishments, such as restaurants in small towns, he said.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, said it would be up to the bar owners if they wanted to go smoke-free and serve food to minors. Parents could also not allow their children to eat there if they're concerned, he said.

Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Valley City, said minors can now eat at places like Applebee's and Ruby Tuesday where there are bars.

"How this is any different, I do not know," he said.

Rep. Dave Weiler, R-Bismarck, said a bar may be the only place to eat in some small towns.

Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo, said legislators also need to keep in mind the state's bigger cities like Fargo and Minot. Bars have different atmospheres than an Applebee's or a Ground Round, he said.

The bill now moves to the Senate.