Jones Co. businesses take stand in ID policies

Guest Column
By: 
Jeffrey Meyer
ASAC Certified Prevention Specialist

     When it comes to responsible alcohol service, perhaps the most obvious safeguard is one of the most important, checking identification. Asking for someone’s ID before an alcohol sale, when done properly, is an excellent way to prevent sales to minors. Not only does it verify age without having to guess, but it sends the message to all customers that alcohol sales are to be taken seriously. Failure to have consistent ID practices risks tremendous liability for businesses, the loss of liquor licenses, risks to the community, as well as health and safety risks for an underage customer attempting a purchase. For this reason, the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition feels very strongly about encouraging businesses to have strong ID practices in place, and positively recognizing those that already do. The results of two recent programs, one sponsored by the Coalition and another conducted by law enforcement, show that consistent ID practices are becoming the norm for Jones County businesses.

     Compliance checks occur when law enforcement uses a volunteer underage youth who, under the direction and supervision of law enforcement, attempts to purchase alcohol at any business with an alcohol license. Here in Jones County, both the Monticello and Anamosa Police Departments make it a point to check as many off-premise (grocery and convenience stores) businesses as possible. This year, 18 checks were conducted with a 100-percent pass rate, matching last year’s perfect rate as well. This is a tremendous testament to how the alcohol service culture is changing in Jones County, as prior checks from just a few years ago only had a 41 percent pass rate.

     Funding for compliance checks is limited, and so law enforcement has to exercise discretion in selecting which businesses to check. For them, this usually means a focus on off-premise locations. For this reason, the Coalition has sponsored the BARS Program for the third year in a row to help bridge this gap – checking bars and restaurants, referred to as “on premise” establishments, in Jones County, 24 businesses in total this year. The BARS Program is operated privately and does not have the force of law. It also utilizes young adults that are of age, yet are still well below the age of 35 – the recommended threshold for which every customer is asked for the identification. Servers that ask for an ID prior to service are given a “green card” and congratulated on their caution, whereas servers that do not ask for an ID are given a “red card” and reminded on the importance of identification. Of the 24 businesses that were checked, 22 were given a “green card,” a success rate of 92 percent, and significantly above last year’s rate of 81 percent.

     We feel the reason for this positive trend can be traced to the prevention efforts of the Coalition, as well as the buy-in and support of our business community. One such effort that continues to receive very positive responses from businesses are the Training in Intervention Procedures (TIPS) trainings we sponsor in conjunction with the Area Substance Abuse Council (ASAC). These trainings can be tailored for bars and restaurants or convenience stations, and offer a comprehensive look at what alcohol service means, the liability involved, and how to safeguard against intoxication and underage sales. All trainings are completely free and come with a three-year certification. Those involved in grocery and convenience stores are encouraged to attend the upcoming off-premise training, 5:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Community Center in Anamosa on Wednesday, April 12, and those involved in service at bars and restaurants are encouraged to attend the on-premise training on Wednesday, April 19 at the ASAC Anamosa location, 110 S. Williams St., also at 5:30 p.m.

     For questions, or to RSVP, contact Jeff Meyers at 319-390-1884 ext. 205.

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