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TMCNet:  Alcohol servers on the front line

[July 30, 2013]

Alcohol servers on the front line

Jul 29, 2013 (The Bismarck Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- (This is the second in a four-part series "Alcohol in Our Culture." Part three will look at schools and colleges dealing with the problem.) Local bar operators/owners say they are doing what they can to to prevent intoxicated people from driving.

Under North Dakota law, the server, the establishment and the owners can be sued or prosecuted if they serve an intoxicated person alcohol.

Burleigh County State's Attorney Richard Riha said state law allows Class A misdemeanor charges against the establishment and individuals for serving someone under age 21, a habitual drunkard, someone who is obviously intoxicated or incompetent. Those convicted could face up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Riha said businesses can be charged with a criminal offense for serving an intoxicated person.

"The organizational fine for a Class A misdemeanor is a maximum fine of $30,000," he said.

The entity -- city or county-- that issues the liquor license also can pull the license through its administration authority, he said.

Training Bismarck Police Officer Clint Fuller trains servers on when to cut a customer off and how to spot fake identifications. He said the free training takes about an hour.

"Whenever there is a new establishment opening, I send them a letter," Fuller said.

He also encourages establishments to train when there is staff turnover.

Serving an intoxicated person does make a business civilly libel if someone is hurt by a drunken driver, Fuller said.

"If someone shows up at a bar or restaurant intoxicated, you are trained to not serve them. Offer them food, a soda, water or a cab," he said.

"We remind them that if you serve someone underage, the server can face criminal charges. Under administrative action, the business can lose its license," Fuller said." Anybody can be sued for liable." "We tell them to look for the obvious signs of intoxication -- trouble balancing, trouble talking and fishing for their wallet. These are obvious signs they need to be cut off," he said. "We ask they not to load somebody down with drinks." Rudie Martinson, executive director for the North Dakota Hospitality Association, said the group offers training certification through the National Restaurant Association's Servesafe program.

"Businesses can buy the course and take the exam. It discusses when to quit serving and how to avoid taking fake IDs," Martinson said.

He said many cities in the state require a business train servers with local law enforcement and businesses should check what is required. He said another program will check if servers are asking for IDs. For more information call 701-223-3313.

Businesses Susanne White, co-owner of Captain Freddy's in Mandan, said the business uses the hospitality group's training. Its management goes through the training directly. New servers will be trained by floor managers with supervision.

"If we think that somebody has reached their limit, we'll have them drink a 22-ounce glass of water," White said. "We have asked them to stop and wait before driving." Warning signs are a customer with slurred words, being too loud, not sitting or standing properly or misbehaving.

"If we see that person trying to leave, we will hand them a taxi voucher," she said.

Food sales help slow intoxication, White added.

Lee Prochnow, a manager at Borrowed Buck's Roadhouse in Bismarck, said the training is done in-house.

"We show them a video package. It shows them what to look for if someone is intoxicated, Prochnow said. "We use the 'stoplight' method. Green is if someone just started drinking and there is no sign of intoxication. With yellow, their speech is slurring and they are showing signs of some intoxication and stumbling around. ... At red, they are obviously intoxicated. They are overly slurring their speech, forgetting things, fumbling for their money, are falling asleep at their table and are showing decreased motor skills." Prochnow said precautions are taken at the yellow stage.

"If they order doubles, we may only serve one drink and we'll do the popcorn," he said.

Drinking water is encouraged, he said. He said servers will notify management they are uncomfortable serving someone and can stop serving that person.

___ (c)2013 The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, N.D.) Visit The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, N.D.) at www.bismarcktribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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