Another Wisconsin Community Bans Bartenders From Serving While Drunk

September 20, 2013

Neenah has become the latest Wisconsin community where bartenders can be cited if they’re legally intoxicated when they serve customers.

The Common Council voted 6-2 this week to enact a sober-server ordinance. It allows police to cite bartenders who have a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more, the same legal limit for drunken driving, The Post-Crescent Media reported.

bartender pouring drinkThe measure will help ensure that bartenders are sober enough to manage important aspects of their job, such as checking for underage drinkers and not serving over-intoxicated patrons, Alderwoman Marge Bates said.

“It seems reasonable that they need to be sober to do that,” she said.

Council member Shiloh Ramos told WHBY radio that bartenders also need to make judgments about whether a customer is too drunk to drive, so they themselves shouldn’t be impaired by alcohol.

An initial proposal called for bartenders to maintain absolute sobriety. Tavern owners pushed back, saying there should be no ordinance at all. In the end the council achieved what Alderwoman Cari Lendrum called “a perfect compromise” between the two sides.

Ricky Jacquart, the president of the Winnebago County Tavern League, argued against imposing what he said was a burdensome measure that would over-regulate businesses. He said 97 percent of tavern owners already enact such policies in their taverns.

The new ordinance doesn’t mean Neenah police will routinely enter taverns to give alcohol breath tests for bartenders, police Chief Kevin Wilkinson said. But bartenders could be tested if police are summoned to the bar for some other reason, such as a fight.

The four other Wisconsin communities with a sober-server ordinance are Madison, La Crosse, Jackson and Kenosha.

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