Harrisonburg, Va. Bartenders to Test Drive Anti-DWI Program

March 27, 2007

The men and women who usually have a sympathetic ear for customers will be on extra alert for drinkers who drive.

Harrisonburg, Virginia has been selected by the nonprofit Foundation For Alcohol Responsibility as the first test city in what could be a national training program to identify intoxicated patrons and help keep them off the road.

The notion of bartenders looking out for customers isn’t new. This program hopes to formalize that relationship.

The goal is to reduce underage drinking and DUIs through cooperation with police, bars and university administrators, according to foundation President Jill Kerr. The nonprofit is supported by alcohol distributors and was founded by Health Communications Inc., which trains bartenders.

“They wanted to get the beverage industry behind an initiative that’s not anti-alcohol, but teaches responsible consumption,” Kerr said.

Since the fall, Kerr has met with bar owners, law enforcement authorities and university officials to start the program, which will operate in Harrisonburg for five years.

During the first year, Kerr says FAR will give up to $100,000 in training and education materials to city restaurants. To date, six restaurants are participating.

A James Madison University marketing class will create materials encouraging young adults to drink responsibly.

The foundation — or FAR for short — picked Harrisonburg because the city is near its home base in northern Virginia, is a university town, and already has The Community Coalition on Alcohol Abuse encouraging alcohol safety.

Chris Clark, operations manager at the Artful Dodger, said the training covers what responsible bartenders should already be doing.

“If we can’t help them, we’re doing a disservice to the customers,” Clark said. “We don’t want people (leaving) and getting DUIs.”

In addition to training, Clark says FAR will provide the bar with a breath-testing machine so customers can determine their blood alcohol content.

Clark also expects to receive a machine that will detect fake IDs.


Information from: Daily News-Record

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