Proposed ordinance would require alcohol servers and sellers to receive training

Thursday, March 8, 2012 | 9:24 p.m. CST; updated 12:16 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 14, 2012

*CORRECTION: Kim Dude is the director of the MU Wellness Resource Center. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the center.
**CLARIFICATION: The bartenders might not be opposed to the proposed ordinance. An earlier version of the story implied that their position was more definite and lacked attribution.
***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Steve Hollis' connection to the Substance Abuse Advisory Committee. He serves as a staff liaison but is not a member of the committee.

COLUMBIA — Anyone who sells or serves alcohol — such as gas station clerks or waiters in restaurants — might soon be required to have certification to do so.

Columbia's Substance Abuse Advisory Commission has drafted an ordinance that would require anyone involved in the sale of alcohol in Columbia, including out of state vendors, to complete training to be certified as an alcohol server.

The commission presented a draft of the ordinance to the city's Board of Health at a meeting on Thursday.

To be certified, applicants must either complete an in-person training class or the free online State of Missouri Alcohol Responsibility Training (SMART), which is effective in improving server knowledge and takes about an hour to complete, said Kim Dude, director of MU's Wellness Resource Center* and member of the Substance Abuse Advisory Commission.

The ordinance is mainly focused on preventing the sale of alcohol to minors and already intoxicated individuals. It is planned to mirror the existing food handlers permit, and will be valid at any Columbia employer for three years. A certificate holder must be at least 18 years old.

The Downtown Safety Summit, a group including church leaders and business property and bar owners, supports the proposal, which is based on similar ordinances successfully implemented in other Missouri cities such as St. Louis and St. Joseph, as well as Lincoln, Neb.

Although in the past bar owners have resisted further regulation, they might not be as opposed to this approach** because the online training is free and available 24 hours a day, and servers will be required to have it completed before applying for a position, Dude said.

"The onus is on the employee," Steve Hollis, manager of Human Services for the Department of Health and Human Services, said.

Some details of the ordinance are still being discussed by the Substance Abuse Advisory Commission, such as the fee for the in-person training class, as well as the penalty for servers violating alcohol laws.

After these details are decided, the ordinance would need to go up for public hearing, said Hollis. Hollis is a staff liaison*** to the Substance Abuse Advisory Commission. 

Currently there is no deadline for the commission to submit the ordinance to the Columbia City Council for review.

The Substance Abuse Advisory Commission proposed this ordinance in May 2011, and since then has been drafting and reviewing it.

"It's a complex issue," Hollis said. "The police tend to lean toward enforcement, and the Health Department toward education, so we had to find a compromise."

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