City Council to debate alcohol compliance plan

Robyn Repya

Restaurants and bars currently do not have to do alcohol compliance checks, but a proposed city ordinance making its way through City Hall would make such checks mandatory.

It would also establish server training requirements and set up penalties for establishments that do not comply.

The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association supports the ordinance, which is currently a postponed item on the City Council agenda.

Alcohol compliance checks and server training would encourage establishments to follow the liquor code.

“There have been problems in Dinkytown with underage kids getting liquored up and committing vandalism,” said Dave Polaschek, MHNA board member.

Some bars do a good job of enforcing the drinking age and spotting fake identifications, but some don’t, Polaschek said.

“Training the servers and doing something to cut underage drinking would be a good thing,” he said.

Billy Bison, a server and bartender at the Dinkytowner on 14th Avenue Southeast, said he didn’t receive any server training.

“I have the street-smart version,” Bison said.

He said checking IDs is important to keep out “the riff-raff.”

“You have to check peoples’ IDs, because if you don’t, you could really get punished,” Bison said.

Bison said he supports the ordinance because the penalties for non-compliance are less for servers with training.

Megan Ellingson of the city’s Department of Health and Family Support, said server training is voluntary, but many establishments already do training because insurance companies will give them a break.

Under the proposed ordinance, penalties for noncompliance would be less severe for those who had undergone server training, she said.

“We’re trying to create an incentive for establishments to create server training,” Ellingson said.

According to statistics used in the ordinance proposal, compliance has risen from 53 percent in 1998 to 83 percent in 2001.

A group of restaurant and bar owners hope they can find an alternative to making compliance checks mandatory.

Dario Anselmo, owner of The Fine Line and president of the Warehouse Business District Association, plans on working with the City Council to create a task force promoting safe behavior at bars and restaurants, rather than mandatory compliance checks.

Anselmo said the compliance checks, or “stings,” have unfairly targeted bars.

Anselmo said theaters, some of which also serve alcohol, have not been targeted for these checks.

“People in our business feel it’s a witch hunt that doesn’t make sense,” he said.

The city needs to go after the youth or the parents of minors to enforce individual responsibility for their actions, he said.