Local Bars look to Promote Safety, Limit Liability
For over a year and a half, the Area Substance Abuse Council has been working with area bars and restaurants to aid their efforts in having safe, responsible, and proactive alcohol service. The reception has been extremely positive, with 93 assessments taking place just with Linn county businesses, in addition to work done in neighboring Benton and Jones counties. These assessments have resulted in countless changes in how bars and restaurants look at alcohol service and go about preventing underage and binge drinking. Though there remains work to do, the results have been encouraging and stand as a testament to our business community’s dedication to first class service and responsibility.
For many businesses, changes made were small but can easily make a big impact. This included a heightened awareness of intoxication and how to spot initial signs of impairment. For many of us, talk of someone being intoxicated means obvious physical signs—trouble walking, obstructed vision, and slurring of speech. Yet what many bars and restaurants are starting to understand is that, in reality, those physical symptoms are always preceded by mental impairment. By learning to better spot mental impairment, such as loss of judgement, changes in sociability, and ill-advised decision making, one can put interventions in place such as cutting off alcohol service, and providing food and water, so that those effects might be reversed or at least halted.
For the vast majority of business, liability remains of foremost concern. To serve alcohol one has to carry expensive insurance, and any misstep in over-serving or serving to minors can result in fines, loss of revenue, and even liquor license revocation. To address this, businesses were provided with a variety of suggestions to limit liability, including the use of an incident report to document any disruptive events or occasion when service either has to be cut-off or refused. While it may not seem like much at first, having things documented can mean a huge difference in terms of legal liability.
Another area that has seen dramatic improvement has been the increasing number of bars and restaurants that put service policies in writing. At the time of assessment, many managers and owners had a great deal of experience and knowledge about how to prevent or address given situations, yet such information was not always conveyed to employees, especially new ones. To address this, ASAC helped businesses formalize their already strong policies in to a policy manual that would be read and signed off by all employees. This gave the owner documentation that expectations were conveyed, and also proved to be a valuable resource for employees.
The assessments have also proved useful in that many bars are now voluntarily having their employees go through some sort of responsible beverage server training. Businesses were especially encouraged to go through the TIPS (Training in Intervention Procedures) training, an in-person training that is internationally recognized for its comprehensive curriculum dealing with all areas of responsible beverage serving. Alternatively, businesses were also encouraged to take the I-PACT online training offered by the Alcohol Beverages Division. These trainings act to both educate employees on the laws and regulations of Iowa, and empower them to apply best practices to ensure service is always done responsibly and legally.
The Area Substance Abuse Council would like to thank all businesses that agreed to undergo an alcohol policy risk assessment, and strongly encourages all businesses to examine their own policies and procedures to ensure alcohol service is being handled in the most responsible manner as possible. To schedule a risk assessment, businesses are encouraged to contact Jeffrey Meyers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 319-390-1884 ext. 205.