Bar owners: training decreases sales to intoxicated persons

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JULY 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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Bar owners say the implementation of the Iowa Program for Alcohol Compliance Training earlier this year helps servers understand when patrons shouldn't be sold another alcoholic drink because they are intoxicated.

The University of Iowa and Iowa City's joint Partnership for Alcohol Safety discussed a law covering selling to intoxicated person on Wednesday, and many local bar owners say there's no real way to completely prevent selling to intoxicated patrons.

It is against state law for someone to continue to serve an intoxicated person or one who simulates intoxication. Members of the coalition agreed the law has many gray areas because of the drinking culture in Iowa City.

George Etre, the owner of Takanami and Formosa, said there are establishments downtown with numerous bars and numerous bartenders working as well as numerous waiter staff serving drinks.

"They have [roughly] 35 different people you can get alcohol from," he said. "It's tough to remember who is coming up and what they look like."

He said it's also difficult for servers to tell if someone has had too much to drink it the patron is seated and does not seem intoxicated.

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine agreed.

"There are some people that may be at a 0.02 [blod-alcohol content], and they can't talk, and they're stumbling," Hargadine said. "And people are at a 0.2 or 0.3 and go through their day fine [because they are functional alcoholics]."

Committee members agreed that the training of the bar owners and servers completing the training serve important roles when trying to uphold the law.

The state Alcoholic Beverages Division launched the new alcohol program March 1. It is the first free, online alcohol-training program in Iowa to be implemented statewide.

"When I employ people, their first four hours are alcohol training," Etre said. "We try our hardest to cover the liability."

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, said she takes the training one step further by telling new employees they need to bring in their program certification before their first shift.

Patrick Grim, assistant undergraduate director at the UI Student Legal Services, said he has worked as an assistant manager at a bar, and incentive programs have worked the best to make sure employees have completed the certification.

"We would have food incentives," he said. "And it takes less than an hour. If it's slow and we had two waitresses working had a laptop behind the bar, and one of them would do their I-PACT."

Shelly Campo, a UI associate professor of community and behavioral health, suggested that bar owners and bartenders could look at a sales receipt for one person and see if there were enough drinks purchased that could make someone intoxicated.

Yet Cohen said it depends on the type of alcohol the patrons purchase.

"You can't tell by tabs because people buy their group shots," she said. "You can get a $7 PatrĂ³n or something that's $2 [for the deal of the night]."

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