Drinking on the job: Wisconsin communities creating sober bartender laws

By: Aaron Dimick, AP Email
By: Aaron Dimick, AP Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A Wisconsin community has a plan in the works to make a law saying bartenders must be sober when on the clock.

It's happening on the east-side on the state in Neenah.

A city council committee there is considering a ban on drinking bartenders this week.

“We're dead set against it,” said Dino Amundson, the President of the Eau Claire City-County Tavern League.

He said the Tavern League of Wisconsin and bar owners in Neenah are fighting the proposed ban on drinking bartenders.

“There isn't a bar or restaurant in the state of Wisconsin that doesn't implement some kind of morals as to what their staff can and can't do while they're on premise. You want your staff not only on their best behavior, but on their a-game so they can monitor your customers. You just can't have your staff partying like rock stars, it's not a good image,” Amundson said.

Amundson, who's also the co-owner of the Lake Hallie Golf Course said there are some exceptions.

“Special parties, occasions where they're allowed to have a drink or two. But obviously it's done in moderation,” Amundson said.

Right now there isn't anything in state law that says servers can't join the party.

“It's the bar owner that has to regulate this,” Amundson said.

Madison, La Crosse and a community in Jackson County already have similar bans in place.

“The municipal alcohol policies committee has discussed this and its one of the many things we want to look at,” said Eau Claire City Council Member Dave Duax.

With a recent assessment showing alcohol use costs Eau Claire County $160 million a year, Duax said a sober server ordinance could be used to reduce that big impact.

“We want to see if there's some way we can work with businesses, taverns and restaurants to see if we can’t work this out as a partnership, that’s the tactic we’ve taken at this point,” Duax said.

The city council member said the sober server law is going to be discussed over the next couple months, and the city wants to look at how it's working in other communities.

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) -- The eastern Wisconsin city of Neenah is considering an ordinance that would require bartenders to show up for work sober -- and ban them from drinking on the job.

A City Council committee is scheduled to consider the ordinance Tuesday and decide whether to send it to the full council.

Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson says the ordinance would let police hold bartenders accountable if they don't exert enough control over their patrons because they're serving while intoxicated.

Gannett Wisconsin Media report (http://post.cr/YO6bTJ ) that few such ordinances are in place nationwide, and where such ordinances do exist, they result in few citations.

At least three Wisconsin communities regulate drinking by bartenders -- Jackson, La Crosse and Madison. But a Gannett Wisconsin Media check found that enforcement is spotty.

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