Group lobbies for responsible liquor serving | VailDaily.com

Group lobbies for responsible liquor serving

Christine McManus

They would be dead.

“Drink specials like that encourage irresponsible drinking. While it might not necessarily be against the law, it does not promote a healthy community,” said Beverly Gmerek, the prevention coordinator at the Summit Prevention Alliance, also known by its acronym, SPA.

“We’re seeing a huge number of drunken driving arrests in the county, per capita,” Gmerek said.

In the face of that concern, the SPA is asking elected officials and liquor boards across the county to do more to discourage irresponsible drinking habits.

About 38 percent of the arrests in Summit County the past year were drunken drivers. Pitkin County drunken drivers made up about 22 percent of the arrests there last year, Gmerek said.

In addition to possibly saving lives, the county could save money if it didn’t have to deal with so much drunken driving enforcement, drunken assaults, graffiti or other such problems incurred by intoxicated people, she added.

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Sending all bartenders and servers to classes is one way to assure establishments don’t sell too much alcohol to individuals.

Some restaurants require classes, some do not. Silverthorne requires bartenders and servers to be trained and licensed in order to serve alcohol.

“It’s like when parents tell their children that good grades are important. If the commissioners don’t tell you, how do you know how important it is?” Gmerek said.

Commissioner Gary Lindstrom said the county would consider a proposal that would require all alcohol servers to take a class.

Another way to encourage responsible alcohol sales is to thank restaurants and bars who serve alcohol responsibly, Gmerek told commissioners at a recent meeting.

“There are a lot of bars and restaurants who are doing well, serving alcohol in a responsible manner,” Gmerek said. “We think the county should give them a pat on the back. For example, a bar that passes a compliance check six times in a row should be handed a certificate or a plaque.”

Cheap-drink ads and drunken patrons are accidents waiting to happen, Gmerek said, especially because nighttime bus ridership numbers are down. The SPA currently visits liquor license holders and distributes packets of information, including Tipsy Taxi information and bus schedules.

If bars or restaurants sell to underage or intoxicated people, they should be given conditional license status, Gmerek said.

No specific violations have moved the SPA to request additional communication between liquor boards and licensees, Gmerek said. The alliance monitors liquor code violations, but the violators are not made public.

The past couple of years, the Drunken Driving Committee of the SPA widened its focus. Instead of just targeting prevention efforts at people who drink and drive, it also is targeting the bartenders and servers who sell alcohol. The county contacts bars and restaurants after police catch them serving to drunk patrons or underage people. More communication is needed, according to the SPA.

“If one establishment gets away with a violation, it can set the tone for other bars and restaurants. They can choose to serve irresponsibly and not break the law,” Gmerek said. “But it doesn’t serve the community very well.”