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Filed under Opinion

Drinking on the job

The Tavern League of Wisconsin recently had its spring 2013 conference in Eau Claire. Along with a conversation about tougher drunk driving laws, on the docket was a recent Neenah city ordinance outlawing drinking by
bartenders while on the job.

Neenah, a city near Green Bay, has postponed an ordinance that would require Neenah bartenders to remain sober and not drink alcohol while on duty.

According to an article in The Leader-Telegram, the ordinance was postponed because Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson is currently working with tavern owners.

I can understand the concept behind this law. If a bartender is drunk, he/she has no control over their customers and cannot properly supervise the number of drinks a person has and when they should be cut off.

However, I disagree entirely with this law.

It should be up to a bar owner or manager to decide whether the bartenders can drink or not. If and when a bartenders’ drinking becomes a problem while on the job, the boss will notice. If they allowed their workers to drink too much they would lose customers, money, and be liable for a number of lawsuits.

This is Wisconsin for godsakes. We live on cheese and beer. Throw a rock and it’s probably going to hit a bar. Am I the only one that was brought into a bar under the grandfather law as a kid? I know I’m not alone. For those with boring and sober parents, the grandfather law allows those under 21 to be brought into a bar and drink if they are with a parent. We know how to handle our liquor.

I was at a bar that will remain nameless on Water Street the other day and the bartender was talking about this law and I was eavesdropping. He was saying that if he ever got too drunk to do his job he would be fired right away, not even given a second chance. At many of the bars on Water Street and in Wisconsin, drinking with the bartender is a
social interaction.

Customers expect their favorite bartender to take a shot with them. I’m sure they have their tips and tricks to stay sober while still pleasing the customer; it’s part of their job.

Unfortunately, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunk driving in the nation. While that fact is upsetting and something should be done to decrease that number, blaming bartenders is not the answer. Blaming a bartender for drunk drivers is equivalent to blaming McDonald’s for making you fat. It’s a personal responsibility; bartenders are not babysitters.

An article in the Pioneer Press states that three communities in Wisconsin follow this law — Madison, La Crosse and Jackson. That same article found that enforcement in these areas has been spotty. Violations of the law could result in fines of $90 to $300.

The Leader-Telegram article states that the Lake Hallie Golf Course has its own rules that do not allow bartenders to drink on the job. I’m sure most bars, like the golf course, have their set of rules in place that their employees must follow. Co-owner Dino Amundson said they have an official policy in place, but it’s also common sense for the bartenders.

I know that I made jokes earlier about how big of a drinking state Wisconsin is. While I’m proud to come from Wisconsin and love having few beers with my family and friends, our drinking culture is dangerous. We shouldn’t be proud that we are one of the biggest binge drinking states in America.

Perhaps I can come off as a bit hypocritical here because I am an
of-age, drinking college student, but I don’t plan on keeping up my habits when I get out of college and I probably shouldn’t have started in the
first place.

The solution to decrease binge drinking and drunk driving doesn’t lie in enforcing stricter laws, it requires a change in our culture.

 

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