Crackdown on serving alcohol to minors
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY” It could happen on any given night at any given bar.
Minors trying to order alcohol is not an uncommon event in Eagle County, but the county commissioners said more and more bars have been caught serving the alcohol to minors.
It is a problem they say they want to stop, and they are hoping tougher liquor license suspensions will send a message to the bar community that the problem has to stop.
“You have an obligation to everyone in the community, especially to this girl’s parents,” County Commissioner Sara Fisher said Tuesday to Charles Sterling, representative for the Rumpus Room.
Just three months after being issued their liquor license, the Edwards nightclub was caught serving alcohol to a minor in a December sheriff’s department sting, said Kathy Scriver of the Clerk and Recorder.
The bar admitted to the violation and to not providing the county with proof of improper alcohol-service-prevention training for bar staff.
“You only had your license for three months, and you took it for granted,” Fisher said.
The commissioners issued a five-day active suspension, and nine additional days of suspension if the bar violates the liquor code in the next year.
Because the bar closes during the summer, it is important to have the suspension occur before the end of the ski season, and that two of the days be Saturdays, Fisher said.
To prevent future incidents from taking place, a whole new staff has been hired and all employees are receiving alcohol service training, Sterling said.
“I know the responsibility that comes with a license, and I held a license in Vail before,” Sterling said. “I am sorry for the lapse.”
The five-day suspension was approved after Fisher’s request for a 10-day suspension was turned down by commissioners Peter Runyon and Arn Menconi.
“With the fact you’ve gone through great staff turnover and you’re not sure if your staff is trained, I feel a greater sense of punishment should be given,” Fisher said.
Fisher also voted against a two-day suspension for the Full Belly Kitchen after they too were caught serving alcohol to a minor. The two-day ban passed with Menconi and Runyon voting in favor of it, and the suspension must occur before April 21.
Three other establishments ” Juniper, Ray’s and Main Street in Edwards ” were given two-day suspensions, but were given 90 days to serve them. The December violations were the first for each since receiving their licenses more than three years ago.
Why are there so many violations?
Giving small $50 fines to those caught serving to minors is not much of a deterrent, said Peter Miller, a representative to Rays.
“When we have to stop serving alcohol, the rest of the staff gets punished and not just the server who only gets a $50 fine,” Miller said. “I think there should be a bigger punishment for the people that commit the crime.”
Firing the staff member who serves the alcohol only aggravates the situation, said Doug Sable of Juniper.
“The guy who served that night has been with me for six years and is a phenomenal employee,” Sable said. “In our environment he would have another job the next day and I would be the only one hurt by it.”
The commissioners asked the representatives of each restaurant to make suggestions for steps the county could take to reduce the amount of violations.
“I would suggest the sheriff’s department come in and talk to us and show us videos of accidents,” Miller said. “Over-service is more of a problem than underage drinking, I think.”
Teens who have more realistic and better access to fake identification are also a growing problem these days, Miller said.
Checking those IDs is an important tool The Rumpus Room will use more often to prevent underage drinking, Sterling said.
“Anyone under 35 years will be checked by the door staff, they’ll be checked inside by the staff when they order their drinks and the managers will be doing random carding,” Sterling said. “We will also be giving out cash incentives to the bartenders and door staff.”
Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.