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County wants to be included in Alcohol Awareness Program

November 05, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Bars, restaurants and other places where alcoholic beverages are sold soon may have to keep closer tabs on how much their customers are drinking.

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to ask the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to include the county in a state law that requires supervisors trained in alcohol awareness to be on the premises during the operating hours of establishments that sell alcohol.

The Washington County Board of License Commissioners, also known as the Liquor Board, made the presentation to the County Commissioners last week.

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The Alcohol Awareness Program is aimed at helping supervisors recognize signs that patrons have had too much to drink, whether they are underage and when to stop serving them alcohol.

At least one certified supervisor would be required to be on the premises while the establishment is open, County Attorney Richard Douglas said.

The certification is issued through the State Comptroller's Office and is valid for four years, Douglas said.

"It's not going to change anything," said Lou Thomas, president of the Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association.

Thomas said places that serve alcohol already are required by law to make sure some supervisors go through the training program.

The main difference would be that at least one supervisor with the training must be on the premises while the establishment is open, said Thomas, who owns The Yellow House near Boonsboro.

Howard, Kent, Harford and Montgomery counties already have the requirement in place, Thomas said.

Thomas, an alcohol awareness program instructor, said the four-hour course costs about $55 to $65 per person. The classes are held on an as-needed basis in each county.

He said that while the proposed requirement may result in increased expenses for a business, many places that serve alcohol already have more than one certified supervisor.

According to the county's proposal, an establishment that violates the law would face a $100 fine for the first offense, a $500 fine for each subsequent offense, or a liquor license suspension or revocation.

Douglas said the proposal has the backing of Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades and Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith.

Mary Ellen Pryor, owner of Short Stop Tavern in Hagerstown, said she doesn't think the proposed change is necessary.

She said many certified supervisors who are responsible already keep an eye on how much their customers are drinking.

"I don't see any real purpose in the new law," Pryor said. "I figure if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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