Opinion: Responsible Alcohol Consumption Is Also a Responsibility of The Seller

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CHP officers examined wrecked car in which a drunken driver died. Courtesy OnScene.TV

By Michelle Tatum

One of my worst nightmares is getting a phone call in the middle of the night saying that someone I know or love was killed by a drunk driver.

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That got me to thinking about a church member who just lost her 12-year-old granddaughter to a drunk driver. The drunk driver passed out at the wheel and slammed into the rear of her daughter’s minivan. Her granddaughter had just left the beach. The drunk driver had just left a bar.

I wondered who in their right mind would continue to serve someone alcohol who was already intoxicated AND then let them get behind the wheel of a car? Where was the consideration for the safety of the community they make their money from? There wasn’t any.

We all should do everything in our power now to prevent that scenario from happening again.

An excellent first step is to make sure owners, managers and employees of bars, liquor stores and other places that sell alcohol get responsible beverage service training. I recently completed training by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control known as the Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs program, known as LEAD. What an eye-opener. I learned about liquor laws I had no idea existed.

I encourage regular, ordinary citizens to attend a LEAD training as well as anyone who works in the business of selling alcoholic beverages. It had me asking questions like:

What are establishments in my community of Lemon Grove doing to prevent the sale of alcohol to children? Are alcohol sellers taking the LEAD training and requiring their employees to do the same? Are these establishments unleashing drunk drivers into our neighborhoods with no repercussions? Are these establishments adhering to the rules and terms that come with having a liquor license?

Most importantly, do they know they can be held financially responsible when someone is murdered by a drunk driver who just left their establishment? Why would a business owner jeopardize his livelihood just to make one more sale?

According to the Alcoholic Beverage Control website, the mission of the LEAD Program is to “provide high quality, effective and educationally sound training on alcohol responsibility and the law to California retail licensees and their employees.” The ABC “expects and encourages licensees to act responsibly relative to their alcoholic beverage license privileges.”

A great second step for local bars, restaurants and stores to reduce their risks of liability is promoting food and non-alcoholic drinks to discourage intoxication. They can promote a safe ride program to prevent drunk driving. They can hire and train staff thoroughly, including LEAD training. They can enforce a no-drinking policy for employees while on duty. And they should encourage and support employee’s decisions to stop serving an already intoxicated person.

We have to be more considerate and accountable for each other and our communities.

Alcohol is fun and cool for some people. But handled carelessly, it can have tragic results.

Owning a liquor license is a privilege. Being lax on maintaining the terms of the license as well as selling to whoever is buying shows a disregard for the establishment’s employees, neighbors, customers, the community, and the very agency that granted their license.

Just so you know, servers can be prosecuted and sued for serving an intoxicated patron. Bar owners and license holders can too. So many lives are affected by the negative consequences of over-consumption. Not only the victims and their families, but the drunk drivers and their families, and the business employees and their families too.

Drunk drivers won’t be the only ones facing criminal liability.

From my knowledge, very few alcohol license holders and employees in my community of Lemon Grove have taken the free LEAD training offered by the state. That needs to change. Our lives are worth more than the few hours it takes to learn to sell responsibly.


Michelle Tatum is a resident of Lemon Grove.

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