Alcohol servers learn limits

Restaurants and bars can be fined if they overserve alcoholic drinks to patrons.
Friday, December 30, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:41 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Servers in 20 of Columbia’s bars and restaurants have learned the consequences of serving underage and intoxicated drinkers and how to avoid doing so through the voluntary State of Missouri Alcohol Responsibility Training online program.

The program, which began in December 2004, is administered by MU’s Wellness Resource Center and funded by a grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Division of Highway Safety. Currently, 163 Missouri establishments use it, and 3,271 servers are enrolled.

To earn certification, the training requires the person to earn a perfect score on a test about the information. The server can review the material and take the test as many times as necessary to pass. Coordinator Mike McBride said the program has received great feedback because it is convenient and free, but he said he is particularly pleased with the results of a survey given to trainees before and after they were certified with the program.

“Two big behavior changes we’ve seen on the survey is that 73.6 percent more servers say that they have stopped serving someone who is intoxicated in the past week, and 62.4 percent more servers say they havestopped serving someone who was underage in the past week,” McBride said.

The same survey revealed that training produces major increases in the number of servers who say that minors and intoxicated customers are never served alcohol in their establishments.

Although data indicating the effect the program has had on drinking and driving in the participating cities will not be available until August, a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said server training programs have the potential to reduce the number of nighttime injury crashes involving drivers under the influence.

Caycee Comer, operations manager at Déja Vu, said that club uses the program because it want to show that its staff is knowledgeable. She also said a lot of participants have been thankful they had the opportunity to learn the consequences of over serving patrons and serving minors.

“I don’t think a lot of younger kids realize that they can be held responsible for it,” Comer said. “This way, there’s no surprise when things happen.”

Pete Lobdell, state supervisor for the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco, said servers who knowledgeably overserve patrons or serve minors are subject to third-party liability.

“If someone who is obviously drunk and overserved gets into a vehicle and there’s an accident and somebody is killed, the victim’s family can sue,” Lodbell said.

Other consequences, Lobdell said, include administrative action that can result in penalties against the establishment by the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and prosecution for individuals for Class A misdemeanors that could bring up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Adam White, a bartender at Willie’s Pub and Pool, said the SMART program has definitely been beneficial.

“It just gives you a lot of telltale signs ... and it also relates the consequences of overserving people,” White said. He added that the program allows new servers to immediately jump into their jobs, because they can learn before they start instead of gradually picking up on things as they gain experience.

“It kind of drops the learning curve down a little bit,” White said.

Tropical Liqueurs bartender Anna Wright said the training helped her become more informed about how to be a responsible server.

“I was more aware of what’s fake and what’s real,” Wright said, referring to IDs. “I saw exact things I wouldn’t normally have looked for. I looked more closely.”

Although the majority of the feedback for the program has been positive, Rick Dieckhaus, floor manager for Flat Branch Pub and Brewing, had some complaints.

“I kind of wish the system would let you know how many times they failed it,” Dieckhaus said. “We love the idea of it, but we wish it could be a little more intensive.”

Flat Branch also uses its own server training program. He said that the SMART program is a good supplement and that the repetition provided by the two programs is the best way for servers to learn.

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