Thursday, September 24, 2009

Absolute sobriety for bartenders - Really?

I recently read, "Assembly panel considers absolute sobriety for bartenders" printed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee) wants absolute sobriety for bartenders and a ban on “all you can drink” specials. He also wants laws in Wisconsin to change regarding underage drinking with a parent. He is proposing that underage drinking with a parent be permitted only if the individual is 18.

Zepnick is emotionally attached to these proposed changes. His sister was killed by a drunk driver who spent the day drinking at a church festival. I can understand his desire to reduce drunk driving in Wisconsin. Don’t we all want to be safe driving on the road?

I do have some issues with Zepnick’s approach however. Part of a bartender’s job is to keep guests entertained and having fun. Often times this requires a bartender to drink with a guest. I know from personal experience because I’m a bartender.

People go out to:
• Have fun
• Unwind
• De-stress.

Is drinking the best way to relax? I can argue that going for a run might be healthier, but who am I to judge.

**Photo by

I think it is great that elected officials are trying to reduce the amount of drunk drivers on the road, but prohibiting bartenders from drinking is not the answer. We need to remember that bartenders are serving consenting adults who make their own decisions - consenting adults who chose to drink and drive.


I agree that bartenders should not be drunk on the job, but absolute sobriety is ridiculous. The truth is, bartenders CANNOT make someone take a cab. It’s that simple. Even if we stop serving someone because they are intoxicated, we have no control over how they get home, whether we are drinking on the job or not.

I agree with many bar owners who say that bartenders are also responsible for tasting products. If a customer says the beer is flat - I need to taste it. I believe that each business owner has the responsibility of promoting a safe environment for their staff and for customers, but the policies and procedures for staff members regarding drinking on the job should be determined by the individual business owner, not the government.

I understand why one would argue that a bartender’s ability to monitor a customer may be impaired if they engage in drinking with the customer, but it sounds to me like panel members are trying to find an easy way to “publicly” proclaim their efforts to lower drunk driving causalities.

The truth is they haven’t done enough research.
• How many of them have ever worked in a bar?
• Do they know how difficult it is to monitor someone’s alcohol consumption?
• Do they realize we can’t force someone to take a cab?

No they don’t.

The idea “looks” good, but I’m willing to say now, that if this passes – it will not have an effect on drunk driving.

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