Wausau Correct To Demand Bartenders Limit Drinking On Job


UPDATE–After feeling the heat from the all-powerful Tavern League of Wisconsin Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple vetoed this sober server ordinance Wednesday, fewer than 24 hours after the Wausau City Council approved it.  That is a shame, and shows who shines the shoes of the league.

There are times when it comes to the issues surrounding Wisconsin’s drinking culture I sense those making arguments to curtail problems associated with alcohol are merely spitting into the wind.  No one is really listening, it seems, as the attitudes run so deep in a state where taverns and beer are seemingly a part of every-day society.

That is why I was so surprised and heartened to read that Wausau has done something positive when it comes to drinking and driving.  Something I have long felt is a part of the answer to how this state can reduce the number of drunk drivers.

The amount Wausau bartenders can drink on the job now will be limited, the Wausau City Council decided Tuesday night in an 8-2 vote.  The new ordinance makes it illegal for servers and their supervisors to drink on the job beyond the point of a 0.04 percent blood-alcohol content.

The ordinance will allow police officers to ask servers or their supervisors who are “reasonably suspected of being under the influence” to take a preliminary breath test. Those with a blood alcohol content of 0.04 percent or higher would be considered intoxicated, and the officer could cite the tavern’s owner for allowing an intoxicated employee to work.

There is no doubt that Wisconsin is awash in beer and alcohol sales, along with the deadly side-effects of too many intoxicated people on the roads.  One can pick up almost any edition of the paper, be a state edition or one that covers one of our many counties and come across too many stories about drunk driving accidents.

This blog has often posted about the ways to curtail the number of senseless deaths by creating laws that work to stem the problem.  One way I have advocated Wisconsin can achieve our objective is to make sure that those who serve drinks at taverns are stone sober.  Only then can sound judgments be made about who should, and should not be served. I suspect in a number of bars this is one contributing factor to over-serving patrons.

While I strongly supported a requirement that people serving alcohol have none of it in their system as proposed in a past legislative session by Rep. Josh Zepnick I am still content with the news from Wausau.  Forward movement is being made on the issue as a whole when it comes to bartenders and the amount they can drink.

I have long argued that those who own the bars, and pour the drinks, need to be held more accountable for their customers who leave with too much alcohol in their system. If a person pouring the drinks has a full sense of his/her surroundings they might be better able to determine who should, and should not, be buying another glass. There must be accountability by tavern owners for what they not only pour into a glass, but also pour out into the streets who then get behind a wheel.

Some will think this new ordinance heavy-handed.  However I think many of the average citizens in this state who care about public safety and are concerned about the problems that come with excessive alcohol use will see this in a different light.  Perhaps all the talking about these issues can produce positive results.  Let us work to keep this ball rolling in community after community.

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