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Monday, February 19, 2018

Steps for ensuring a safer Pub Crawl for everyone

Nearly every town in Montana has an annual celebration where alcohol-fueled “tom foolery” can get out-of-hand. The problem is not the alcohol itself; the problem is the over-consumption of alcohol. The name “Pub Crawl” denotes binge drinking so it cannot be a surprise that there are problems associated with the event.  The question the City Council should be asking is, at what point does the fun become a safety issue and how does the city’s leadership ensure the event stays safe for our citizens?

By Montana law, all alcohol servers are required to receive Responsible Alcohol Sales and Server Training within 60 days of hire. Unfortunately, our legislators left it to the individual business’ to ensure their own compliance with this law.  When problems arise, such as a failed compliance check or an over service citation, it should be reported to the Department of Revenue-Liquor Control Division in Helena to ensure the business has complied with training all its servers. The Pub Crawl is an example of when problems should be reported to the Department of Revenue by our local law enforcement or the City Attorney.

If the servers working during the Pub Crawl were properly trained, they would know that they likely served patrons illegally. In Montana, it is illegal to serve anyone “who is actually, apparently, or obviously intoxicated.” This training helps servers identify ways to know if a patron falls under those categories and how to minimize the risk.   

As advocates work to reduce DUI crimes, there is a push across Montana for prosecutors to criminally charge alcohol servers for their illegal and negligent actions when they grossly over-serve a patron. Patrons are leaving taverns barely able to walk, getting in their vehicles and causing innocent Montanans to lose their lives in DUI crashes. This happens more in Montana than any other state in the country! I encourage the Glendive City Council to ask your city attorney to pursue charges in these instances. When someone receives injuries requiring care in Billings or blood alcohol levels so high, it may be toxic, it’s time to take a serious look at servers’ negligence.

Whether you believe personal responsibility is the problem or not, the above rules are the ones our legislators have voted into Montana law to protect its citizens. 

Whether the Celtic Committee has one member or 100, the organizer of the event should be the one to ensure all the safety measures are in place. The fact that the money is donated to a non-profit does not mean that the committee should not be the ones to ensure the Pub Crawl is a safe, community friendly event. 

Before moving to Glendive, I was a Chamber of Commerce President in a town in Southwest Montana. During my tenure, my duties involved organizing a large community event, which included a street dance and an open container variance. My advice to the City Council is this:

Require all bar owners/managers along the Pub Crawl route to provide copies of the certificates for all their employees proving they have been through Alcohol Server Training before granting the open-container variance. 

Ask the city attorney to charge servers who over-served patrons. Report any violations to the Department of Revenue-Liquor Control Division.

Decrease the number of hours of the variance. Longer hours, especially until 2 a.m., encourages more binge drinking and more associated problems. 

If the Glendive Police Department is too busy with issues downtown to patrol for DUIs, there is a big problem with this event! The city should not have the burden to pay for the extra officers, those benefiting and profiting from the event should. 

Cindy Larsen is a Glendive resident. She can be reached at cindy.larsen@rocketmail.com.

Get the whole story in the April 10, 2014 issue of the Ranger-Review.
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