Holiday drunkwatch is on in Vail Valley |

Holiday drunkwatch is on in Vail Valley

Dustin Racioppi
Vail Valley, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado “-Just like a good cop can spot a drunk driver on the road, Whiskey Jack’s part-owner Sterling Bradbrook can spot a designated driver in his Vail Valley bar.

“They’re usually the sober ones and apologizing for their friends,” he said.

Bradbrook rewards those people with free non-alcoholic drinks for the night, a small token of appreciation for enduring the responsibility of watching the drunken funmobile spin around them.

Whiskey Jack’s is one of several local bars that offers some sort of incentive, however slight, to keep boozed up holiday revelers as far away from a steering wheel as possible.

“There’s no reason to drink and drive here,” said Dick Dime, manager at The Sandbar in Vail.

Until it was stolen twice in one day a few years ago, Dime said the bar had a van employees would use to take patrons who were beyond the legal limit to their homes if they lived in the Vail area. Since the thefts though, the bar has adjusted its designated driver campaign, but Dime said by now, people should know better considering Vail’s convenient bus service and the DUI trap that is the valley.

“I would encourage people to just look at the schedule. It’s free and it’s great,” he said.

The problem is having a safe escape route from the bar before even getting there or getting inebriated, Bradbrook said. Looking at a bus schedule at 1 or 2 a.m. loaded on Zima may be fine, but looking at it after rounds of Jager-bombs could be a challenge.

“I think most people get into trouble when they’re not planning,” he said.

And unless there’s free drink mooches out there, Bradbrook said he’s witnessed an increase in sober people sitting at the bar.

“I’ve already seen a rise in people having a designated driver, which I didn’t see a few years ago,” he said. “I’d like to say that people are more responsible.”

The statistics don’t show that being the case. Avon Police Chief Brian Kozak said nationally the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents have been steady the last few years. Fatalities however, have gone down, he said.

“We’re at this point right now where we’re not making any headway,” he said. “We’re seeing an increase in arrests.”

Local law enforcement is trying, though. Eagle County deputies aren’t increasing patrols, but will be keeping their eyes out for drunk drivers, Sheriff Joe Hoy said.

Colorado State Patrol is doing the same, said spokesman Sgt. Marshall Schwarz.

And Kozak said the Gore Range DUI Task Force ” a conglomerate of Vail and Avon officers, state troopers and county deputies formed two years ago ” has been out in force for at least a week and will continue to be a strong presence.

“Between now and New Year’s Eve we’ll be out pretty much every night,” Kozak said.

Kozak added that people should be smarter than to run into someone from the task force. In Avon, there’s a program paid for through a grant called Last Call, in which a van will pick a person up and either take them home or to a facility in Glenwood Springs to sober up. On New Year’s Eve, there will be Tipsy Taxi, he said, a free service to send Avon residents home.

Finnegan’s Wake General Manager Mike Welle said he tries to keep his guests from getting to the point where they’re stumbling and slurring words, and hopefully mitigating any sort of problems or burden for police.

“We’re real sticklers about cutting people off,” he said.

He said the employees at the bar and restaurant try to keep its customers aware of their options at the end of the night.

“We remind people at the door to make that call and think of it ahead of time, and being more proactive for them instead of waiting ’til 1 or 2 in the morning,” Welle said.

The comforting thing to know this holiday week, is there’s likely going to be somebody watching out for you, one way or another.

Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or

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