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Bartenders taught ways to be responsible servers

January 27, 1998

Bartenders taught ways to be responsible servers

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

INWOOD, W.Va. - It was an unusual gathering Monday at Gables Night Club. No one was drinking alcohol and nearly everyone was a bartender.

It was not a social occasion, but an effort to teach those who serve alcohol to know when to say "no."

Sponsored by officials from West Virginia and Virginia, the Training Education on Alcohol Management class sought to protect bars and restaurants by protecting customers.

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About 50 employees from a dozen bars and restaurants attended the TEAM meeting to watch instructional videos and hear from West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control training and education specialist Dick Weller and others from the DUI Interstate Partnership of the Clean Focus Coalition.

In West Virginia, Weller said businesses that sell or serve alcohol and their employees can be held liable when intoxicated customers get behind the wheel.

"Anybody that's got some money, they'll go after," Weller said of the victims of impaired drivers.

"What do you think that person's going to do when their son's been killed by a drunken driver you let roll out of your parking lot?" Gables owner Larry Luttrell asked.

Luttrell started a designated driver program years ago and heads an effort to promote programs at other businesses.

At his club, designated drivers get free food and nonalcoholic drinks, but must fill out a card that everyone they drive home must also sign. He said his business served 25 designated drivers last weekend.

About 25,000 people a year are killed in accidents caused by drunken drivers and half of those got drunk at bars and restaurants, according to one of the videos. Half the pedestrians killed in nighttime traffic accidents also have alcohol in their systems, according to statistics quoted in the video.

The servers were told to look for potential trouble, watching how customers talk, act, or handle money or cigarettes for signs of impairment.

Slowing down service, offering food and nonalcoholic beverages and cutting off service were among the options discussed for keeping customers from going over the line.

Luttrell encouraged them to keep impaired customers from leaving. Persuading a friend to drive, calling a cab, or even driving them home yourself are preferable to letting a drunk drive away, he said.

The DUI Interstate Partnership includes 27 law enforcement and other groups from Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, according to Diane McCoy, a community development specialist with the Clean Focus Coalition.

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