Cut Down on Alcohol-Fueled Problems with Mandatory Server Training

Cut Down on Alcohol-Fueled Problems with Mandatory Server Training

On tap (photo: Governor’s Office)

These days, safety is at the forefront of most New Yorkers’ minds. With New Year’s Eve upon us – and the heavy drinking that comes with it – alcohol-related accidents, accidents, injuries and crime are an unfortunate inevitability.

Bars and liquor stores serving hard-partying New Yorkers need to understand that there are serious responsibilities that come with their liquor licenses. In fact, their professionalism can mean the difference between life and death.

I previously served as Public Safety Committee Chair for Brooklyn Community Board 9 for three years. During those years, I discovered that most of the liquor licensees that came before us were unaware that it is illegal to sell alcohol to “any habitual drinker” or anyone who is visibly intoxicated. Through numerous conversations with local law enforcement, I discovered the extent to which alcohol-related incidents, accidents, and crimes could be avoided if these businesses followed the law.

For the most part, the fact that the damage caused by a drunken customer – even in another place, hours later – could haunt a seller, was either unknown or ignored.

Liquor licensees can protect themselves and their customers with Alcohol Server Training, a course, usually several hours, that educates vendors about the responsibilities and obligations associated with serving alcohol.

Alcohol server training is critical to preventing underage drinking, reducing the risk of alcohol-related traffic accidents and other incidents, and preventing crime. It teaches servers to recognize when a customer has had too much to drink and to take appropriate action to protect themselves and their establishment from potential legal liability. By providing their employees with alcohol server training, businesses protect their customers from harm and themselves from potential legal and financial consequences.

We looked at statistics from the Mid Hudson Prevention Resource Center, which provides training, and found that after receiving the training, nearly 100% of the trainees responded in their questionnaire that the training should be mandatory. And why wouldn’t they? Those few hours of training are an almost easy step toward protecting individuals and businesses from liability and reducing some of the estimated 6,700 alcohol-related deaths New York suffers each year — but it’s not required in New York State.

As director of Operation Survival, a substance abuse prevention program, I joined a coalition of nonprofit organizations that met with the State Liquor Authority to find out why this easy, low-cost prevention measure is not required in New York ( as it is in other states such as California) and found that mandating Alcohol Server Training would require state-level legislation. Until the state government in Albany moves to make this training mandatory, Operation Survival is launching an awareness campaign, creating a variety of media and educational videos aimed at businesses that serve alcohol on the importance of Alcohol Server Training.

Each industry has standards and certifications it requires of its practitioners to guarantee professionalism and quality. It just doesn’t make sense to have lower expectations of liquor licensees. Alcohol Server Training is mandatory for any bar, restaurant or liquor store and must be required by New York State.

Rabbi Yaacov Behrman is the director of Operation Survival, founder of the Jewish Future Alliance and a Chabad liaison.

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