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Bar Owners Fight Bartender Drinking Ban

By Andrew Mishlove on April 24, 2013


Sober server laws are meeting with resistance as Neenah City Council considers an ordinance that would ban bartenders and servers from drinking on the job. The law also makes bartenders and servers more accountable for their patron’s actions, including drunk driving, if the server has been drinking.

Madison, La Crosse and Jackson already have ordinances banning servers from consuming alcohol, however, an investigation by Gannett Wisconsin Media found that enforcement of the ban is spotty at best.

According to the Post Crescent, Neenah’s ordinance would prohibit servers from drinking while working, and from serving if they have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.04 or more. Bartenders and servers who violate the ban could be fined $90 to $300.

Opponents “Dead Set Against Ordinance”

According to Dino Amundson, President of the Eau Claire City-County Tavern League, bar owners and the Tavern League of Wisconsin are “dead set against” an ordinance banning servers from drinking on the job. He told the WEAU that it’s the job of the bar owner to regulate if and how much a server can consume.
“There isn’t a bar or restaurant in the state of Wisconsin that doesn’t implement some kind of morals as to what their staff can and can’t do while they’re on premise,” he said.
National Bartenders Association President David Craver told the Post Crescent that “it’s not logical to start pinpointing people in a particular profession for prosecution.”

Other’s like ReUnion Station owner Rick Eiting says he doesn’t feel the police should monitor the conduct of his bartenders. “I don’t think the city should be regulating me on what I do,” he said. “If they do this, what’s going to be my next regulation? Will it be the color of toilet paper I use in the bathroom?”

Ordinances Not Often Used

While Eau Claire City Council Member Dave Duax told WEAU that a sober server ordinance could reduce the $160 million burden alcohol use puts on the county, the three cities in Wisconsin that already employ such an ordinance have seen little results.

In fact, police have only issued one citation in Jackson, La Crosse police have issued six citations since 2009, and though Madison also has an ordinance prohibiting servers from working while intoxicated, the Lieutenant Dave McCaw of the Madison Police Department said server conduct has been “basically left up to the bars.”

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