Alcohol compliance training is not as effective in Iowa City


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Despite many bar owners requiring employees to receive I-PACT certification, more sale-to-minor citations were issued in Iowa City than before the training program was launched.

The state Alcoholic Beverages Division launched I-PACT — the Iowa Program for Alcohol Compliance Training — on Feb. 29, 2012, and while sale-to-minor citations have decreased throughout the state overall, those numbers have increased in Iowa City.

In 2011, Iowa City police conducted 394 alcohol-compliance checks and issued 18 citations for sale of alcohol to minors. In 2012, police conducted 273 compliance checks and issued 33 citations.

This year alone, Iowa City police officials have conducted 36 compliance checks, and in those checks, 13 sale-to-minor citations were issued. However, this is just the first set of compliance checks conducted by Iowa City police officials for the year.

“Last year, there were six or seven compliance checks conducted throughout the year,” Iowa City police Sgt. Vicki Lalla said. “And the numbers will presumably be in that neighborhood again this year.”

Although it is not obvious if the training affects the number of citations issued to establishments, bar owners still believe I-PACT is a great resource in preparing their employees for situations that might rise when serving alcohol to costumers.

“We don’t have a lot citations because we are a restaurant and not a bar,” said George Etre, the owner of Formosa and Takanami. “But it helps employees and servers by checking IDs and feeling more comfortable doing that.”

Local officials believe that the combination of alcohol service training and compliance checks is enough incentive for maintaining alcohol safety.

“There is a lot of research done with responsible beverage service training, and regular compliance checks done by law enforcements that show there is a decrease of not only access of alcohol by underage people but with the amount of alcohol consumed in general,” said Kelly Bender, the community harm-reduction-initiatives coordinator for Partnership for Alcohol Safety.

However, training and certification does not always mean that businesses maintain compliance with the law.

“There are some people who have gone through the training and have failed compliance checks,” Bender said.

But an increasing number of bar owners and employees in Johnson County are receiving their I-PACT certifications. Bender said she believes more than 300 people have completed I-PACT training in the county.

Shannon Pagones, education and outreach coordinator at the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, said 12,700 people received I-PACT certification between February 2012 and February 2013.

Between January 2011 and January 2012, 370 sale-to-minor citations were issued statewide. Within the first year that I-PACT training has been available, officials saw a 29.7 percent decrease in citations issued throughout the state — about 110 fewer than in 2011.

Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division officials are also looking into improving the training and bring it up to date with recent laws.

“We are looking to add 10 to 15 minutes of new content because of new laws and for supplemental training, which consists of different scenarios,” Pagones said.

Local businesses are taking advantage of the benefits I-PACT provides and use the online training service as a guide to help them train employees more efficiently.

Some local bars have noticed improved service since their employees underwent training.

“We are one of the only 19-year-old bars, and I think we are very good at not serving minors,” Airliner manager Michael Shutts said.

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