Selling alcohol, whether sold off-site or served on-site in a bar or restaurant, is not something to be taken lightly. Businesses who sell alcohol face a litany of legal and safety concerns. For these reasons, the Jones Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition feels strongly that comprehensive alcohol service policies should be promoted to our community business partners, and occasionally tested. One of the best practices to test is the carding policy of businesses, wherein all persons appearing under the age of 35 be asked for identification prior to service, acting as a strong safeguard against potential underage sales.
Locally, two programs exist to help check ID policies, which are usually conducted on an annual or semi-annual basis. These include compliance checks done by law enforcement and the private BARS program, sponsored by the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition. The most recently conducted checks, conducted in December of last year and January of the New Year, reveal mixed results.
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, local law enforcement agencies make a point to check as many off-premises (convenience & grocery stores) as possible. This year 20 checks were conducted in which only 2 failed, resulting in a 90% pass rate. Though this is down from last years’ 100% success rate, it remains far above 2016’s rate of 41%. This indicates a sustained commitment from our local discount and convenience stores to ID before completing a sale.
While law enforcement’s compliance checks focus on businesses in which alcohol is bought and consumed elsewhere, the Coalition has hired the BARs program for the fourth year in a row to check bars and restaurants wherein alcohol is consumed on premise. The BARS program is operated privately and does not have the force of law. It utilizes young adults that are of age, yet are still close enough to the legal age of 21 that they should always be asked for identification. Servers that ask for an ID prior to service are given a “green card” and congratulated on their precaution, whereas servers that do not ask for an ID are given a “red card” and reminded on the importance of identification. This year yielded disappointing results, with only 8 of the 17 businesses checked receiving a green card, coming in just below 50%. This is especially concerning considering that last years’ BARS checks had a green card rate of 92%.
While the results for this years’ BARS program are not ideal, it should be noted that overall trends for underage drinking in Jones County remain positive. Fewer youth are drinking underage, and most businesses work quickly to address any lapses in policies when a check is failed or a red card is given. To aid businesses, the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition offers free assistance to craft business polices, and provides the internationally recognized TIPs, Training in Intervention Procedures, program freely to all Jones County businesses. TIPs instructs employees on all relevant safety and liability issues in regard to alcohol service, including proper identification practices. To learn more about these trainings or other resources available, please contact Jeff Meyers at 319-390-1884 ext 202, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .