Proposed alcohol training ordinance supported at public hearing

Thursday, September 27, 2012 | 11:12 p.m. CDT; updated 11:52 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 27, 2012

COLUMBIA — Commissioners outnumbered community members at Thursday night's public hearing about a proposed ordinance requiring training for alcohol servers.

The Substance Abuse Advisory Commission held a public hearing to address questions and comments concerning the ordinance, and those who spoke stressed the importance of alcohol safety education.

If passed, the ordinance would require that servers complete a training course approved by the director of Health and Public Services and obtain a servers permit. The training would focus on identifying fake IDs and understanding when to stop serving a person who is already intoxicated.

Servers are defined as those who directly handle alcohol through serving or selling. This includes taking orders for, accepting payment for, mixing, serving or assisting mixing or serving alcohol beverages, according to a server training fact sheet provided by the Health Department.

At the hearing, Michelle Baumstark, chair of the commission, gave a brief overview of the origin and goals of the ordinance while also explaining what the effects of the ordinance would be if it were passed by the Columbia City Council.

Baumstark also provided a list of potential training programs, including the free online State of Missouri Alcohol Responsibility Training.

The SMART program was created to reduce binge and underage drinking while also reducing liability for the employers and employees, according to Baumstark's presentation.

If the ordinance passes and employers are compliant, liability insurance rates will be discounted, she said.

"A lot of insurance companies want to make sure (they're) limiting as many claims as possible," Baumstark said. "Having individuals educated helps limit that risk."

Lt. Chris Kelley — who represents the Columbia Police Department on the commission — talked about the importance of education during the hearing. He said continuing to sell alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated could lead to drunk driving and possibly assault, but server education could reduce those numbers.

During the public comment section of the hearing, John LaRocca, general manager of  University Catering and Event Services, stood behind the ordinance and its cause.

"The more information we can give our employees to do the right thing, the better it is," LaRocca said.

The commission doesn't have an exact estimate on the number of people who would be affected by the ordinance, member Kim Dude said.

Commission members have already spoken to bar owners concerning the ordinance, Baumstark said, so employers know about the ordinance before a vote by the council.

"Any time you implement something new, an element of education must take place," Baumstark said.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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Mark Foecking September 28, 2012 | 2:37 a.m.

The fundamental problem is that underage and binge drinking are huge moneymakers for bars and package stores, and the city gets tax revenues from these sales, so there is every incentive to keep serving underage customers as much as they want. Any fines from enforcement simply become a cost of doing business. Until the city shows that it's willing to pull people's liquor licenses for repeat violations, nothing will change. This program is just CYA stuff.


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