By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Several Stillwater businesses have decided to go beyond state standards to ensure safety in alcohol service.
Zannotti’s Wine Bar, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, J R Murphy’s and Outlaws have entered into a memorandum of understanding to provide quarterly alcohol service training to employees.
The free training will teach employees how to prevent underage drinking and prevent customers from getting dangerously intoxicated. It will include how to spot fake identification, implement new policies, standardize drink servings and keep logs of incidents. It will also educate employees about Oklahoma’s liquor laws.
Chuck Lester is a grant coordinator with the Oklahoma State University Prevention Program which will be putting on the courses in partnership with Stillwater police. He was encouraged by the new training.
“These guys have taken it upon themselves to go above and beyond,” he said. He hopes other businesses follow.
Lester’s research shows the number of underage drinking fatalities in Payne County is approximately 10 percent above the state average of 33.6 percent. Researchers spoke with experts, community leaders, law enforcement officials and others.
Alcohol Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission Senior Agent Eric Smoot said the quarterly training will help address two of the biggest problems he deals with at his job: patrons being served too much and underage people being served. This leads to drunk driving, assaults and domestic disputes, Smoot said.
Liquor law violations can lead to thousands of dollars in fines or permanent revocation of a liquor license. They also affect employees who could face felony charges if they serve minors or intoxicated patrons. By showing employees how to better adhere to laws the course will also protect businesses from legal consequences.
Smoot said with the massive responsibility alcoholic beverage servers have it would be a good idea to make training mandatory.
“These are things that can get someone killed,” he said. “I would much rather teach 1,000 people than arrest 10,” he said.
With businesses stepping up for safety, Payne County could become a model for other counties, Smoot said.
Alane Zannotti, owner of Zannotti’s Wine Bar, said she feels an obligation to protect those she serves and also the ones they interact with after leaving the bar. She has also agreed to have random checks to make sure her employees are implementing skills learned during the course.