A primary role for many Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) agencies is the oversight of the beverage alcohol business in their state. This responsibility grew out of the states’ concerns that a business that sold alcohol beverages without restraint could have significant negative consequences for not only individuals, but also for local neighborhoods and the surrounding community.
Responsibilities may include the licensing and regulation of retail beverage alcohol operations. Examples of beverage operations that may be licensed are:
The licensing and regulation of beverage alcohol sales operations have several purposes. At the heart of this regulation is the protection of public health and safety. Caution must be taken to prohibit the dispensing of beverage alcohol in a manner that may have negative social or legal consequences for the public.
In their role as protectors of the public's interest, ABCs promulgate rules governing the sales and operations of its licensees. Although the rules of ABCs and the degree of engagement with licensees vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, one fact remains constant - to control beverage alcohol sales there must be active involvement with licensees by the ABC agency. This involvement with licensees should strive to prevent negative consequences from beverage alcohol consumption rather than only react to them.
An ABC agency can have a very powerful influence over licensees because it may have enforcement, regulatory and/or licensing capabilities that may influence the retention of one’s liquor license. As a result, licensees are more inclined to take advantage of services that the ABCs offer in order to prevent potential actions against their license. Several ABCs have developed and conduct owner-manager and seller-server training. There are also several other training programs available to licensees through private companies and industry associations. Well-trained employees can prevent alcohol-related incidents involving patrons. Such incidents can result in damage to both the licensee’s property and reputation, resulting in lost income. Well-managed establishments encourage repeat business and long-term increases in sales.
Ensuring that employees are well-trained in preventing negative consequences in and around the licensed establishment is an important role for an ABC agency. Another aspect of the ABC’s function is to encourage the licensee to be actively involved in community efforts that are concerned with:
Licensees may not initially be receptive to programs that suggest local involvement, but the ABC can show the benefits of prevention and community-involved programs to protect the licensees’ business interest.
In protecting the public, an ABC can play an important role in helping a licensee understand that he or she benefits by creating a cooperative and positive relationship with the community that surrounds the establishment. Good relationships minimize neighbors’ complaints and provide for open dialogue when concerns develop. Such dialogue promotes timely resolution of issues and decreases litigation.
ABC agencies can also play an important role in actively involving licensees with local enforcement to prevent underage drinking, impaired driving and other dangerous consumption actions. The ABC often has the opportunity, through its role in oversight and regulation, to use that expertise and credibility in bringing licensees together with state beverage alcohol enforcement and local enforcement to better educate each other on shared concerns and problems. Once a problem has been viewed from both sides, joint solutions can be sought and programs can be implemented that require the cooperation of both the licensee and enforcement.
“Cops in Shops”“ is a program that requires a high level of cooperation from both enforcement and licensees. The program is from The Century Council, an organization that fights impaired driving and underage drinking and is supported by America’s leading distillers. Undercover officers are randomly placed within participating retail stores to deter illegal purchases by minors and outside the store to deter other individuals from buying alcohol for minors.
Building a relationship between licensees and enforcement is important because traditionally they have found themselves in adversarial positions in many communities. The first step in breaking down this adversarial relationship is a better understanding of the business of beverage alcohol sales and the business of enforcing the beverage alcohol laws. These adversarial relationships can be addressed by the creation of informational meetings in which licensees have an opportunity to ask pointed and specific questions of enforcement officials. In some cases licensees can receive legal opinions from attorneys representing the ABCs or enforcement entities. These meetings provide insight to both licensees and enforcement officials that can lead to greater understanding and problem resolution.
An ABC can set up a number of programs that will assist the licensees in being more responsible businesses and that will encourage them to become more involved in the communities and neighborhoods in which they exist. Below is a checklist of issues that must be addressed:
Licensees and control agencies.
Encourage retailers to use technology in a conscientious program of checking identification and helping to promote a social norm among retailers to comply with minimum purchase age laws and discouraging the use of altered and forged identification.
Technology is now available to assist retailers in checking the validity of IDs. Identification cards have begun to include security features such as magnetic stripes, bar codes and two-dimensional bar codes. ABCs can encourage and assist licensees in using this technology by educating them on its use and by implementing regulations or rules encouraging the use of technology.
(Contact Information, see Appendix A)
Retailers and customers of retail businesses.
ABCs can provide and encourage retailers to post responsible signage at their business locations. The signage could be developed by the ABC to provide notice that patrons appearing to be under a certain age will have their IDs checked and ages verified. In addition, the signs could indicate what forms of identification are acceptable. The signs may also refer to persons being refused service if appearing to be visibly intoxicated. Other signs may refer to designated driver programs, fetal alcohol syndrome/effect, or other warnings related to irresponsible consumption of alcohol.
A periodic publication, such as a newsletter, can serve to help ABCs communicate a variety of information to beverage alcohol retailers. The information may include changes in law, changes in procedure, new initiatives and information the ABC wants to disseminate to all licensees. This publication is a valuable method of helping licensees act responsibly and within the law, as well as taking advantage of progress/initiatives the agency has to offer.
Mandatory programs are often referred to as compliance checks or decoy operations. These programs involve using persons appearing to be underage to attempt alcohol purchases, and subsequently, citing or giving information to licensees regarding their staff’s compliance. Statewide liquor law enforcement, local police, or local activist organizations may do these programs.
Incentive-based programs typically do not include a citation for non-compliance but rather provide information to an owner or operator of their staff’s role in selling to minors or persons appearing to be under 21. These programs provide rewards or recognition to employers who consistently check IDs and negative feedback to those that do not. Licensees have internally implemented such programs to check on employee compliance.
Licensees and customers.
Increase awareness and use of designated drivers.
Designated Drivers are defined as persons who have not consumed any alcohol and agree to give a safe ride home to persons who have been drinking. ABCs can assist licensees in promoting such programs by providing servers with materials and ideas on endorsing and assisting patrons with using a designated driver. There are prepackaged programs available to assist in implementation. The ABC can urge licensees to take part in such programs to improve customer service and avoid liability.
(Contact Information, see Appendix A)
An ABC can provide important services and ensure responsible operation by offering a new manager/owner orientation or training. The training may include laws/regulations overseeing alcohol beverage licensees and operations; appropriate operational and employee policies; and appropriate training for operating a responsible establishment.
All retail licensees.
ABCs can invite retail licensees to seminars that include information from all agencies responsible for their operation under their state’s regulation/law. The seminars are intended to provide updates, discuss changes, answer questions and help keep licensees operating within the law. They also provide an opportunity to showcase the resources designed to help conduct responsible operations available to licensees.
Training is intended for all employees of public assembly facilities:
ABCs, through a variety of services and training, can assist large public venues, such as stadiums, concert halls and convention centers, in preventing problems associated with alcohol service. At least one national program sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is available to assist with such efforts. The program’s name is Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management (TEAM) from which training, awareness and policy resources are available. Health Communications, Inc. is TEAM’s newest member. This partnership has brought a novel TEAM/TIPS“ training program to facilities where servers and operations staff, after passing a written test, are certified in the sale of and the control of alcohol beverages in facilities. The program is being submitted to state ABCs for approval. ABCs can be powerful partners by providing guidance on state law, regulations and other services they have available to any licensee. (See CD-ROM – Appendix M)
(Contact Information, see Appendix A)
Licensed establishments, owners, managers, security and servers.
Many licensees recognize that a key to preventing sales to minors and visibly intoxicated persons is employing well-trained, knowledgeable staff. Training provides the skills to identify underage persons, false IDs, intoxicated patrons and other potentially dangerous situations to those persons who have direct contact with customers purchasing and consuming alcohol. The training also provides skills to help deal with such situations and to prevent them from occurring. ABCs are known to provide seller/server training and to encourage licensees to provide such training to employees. Many states have either mandated training or encourage training through a variety of incentives. (See CD-ROM – Appendix N)
(Contact Information, see Appendix A)
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