Special Issue: Bar Policies

Categories:  News    Dry Campus, Wet Town
Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 at 12:51 PM
Special Issue: Bar Policies by Becca Martin
Photo | Paige Koenig

A bar can go from a lifeless room to a jam-packed, wild scene in a matter of minutes, leaving a significant amount of responsibility on the bartenders and owners to keep everyone safe and under control. Their list of responsibilities goes on and on from checking IDs, to pouring drinks, to cleaning up the bar.

From the minute you get to the door, the responsibilities begin. Locally, at the Boro Bar and the Edinboro Hotel Bar there is almost always someone sitting at the door waiting for you to hand them your ID on the weekends. They are liable for everyone they let inside the bar at that point. The bouncers have to use their best judgment, along with anything they’ve learned to decipher who’s really of age or who is trying to use a fake ID to get in. There is a responsible alcohol management program, or RAMP Certification test, that bartenders can take.

RAMP is an online course the Liquor Control Board (LCB) makes available. It is a voluntary training certification taking bartenders through everything they need to know, like how much take-out beer they can sell at once, how to identify a visibly intoxicated person and ways to identify a fake ID.

“We do it voluntarily so everyone is on the same page of how important it is to take your job seriously. If one ‘underager’ gets in or we serve one person one too many drinks that could mean losing your job and me losing my livelihood,” Pat Hargest, Hotel Bar owner said.

Hotel bartender Sydney Black explained, “RAMP teaches us to use the FEAR method, which is feel, examine, ask, return. The RAMP training gives you a crash course on all responsibilities, then you must take a test and pass it and it’s good for two years. It taught me a lot.”

RAMP teaches the bartenders and bouncers several helpful tips to catch fakes, but fake IDs are still a problem.

“Checking IDs is getting harder and harder with the advances in technology of creating fakes,” Boro Bar bouncer Alec Gluvna said. “An establishment is liable for a lot, which is why they must be diligent in guaranteeing the safety of a town’s minors.”

“If we have a suspicion, our manger will check the ID again,” Black said. “We also have declaration of age cards which the patron will fill out to prove their age.”

Age declaration forms can be the only real defense if a bar does get in trouble with the LCB, which supplies bars with the forms.

“If there is a question on an ID, we have these cards we fill out; we tell them [the person trying to get in] when they fill them out they are representing to us that this ID is really them,” Hargest said. “They’ll sign it, we’ll show them all the penalties that are on there. It says you can lose your license, you can get a fine, face prison time, and if they still want to sign it saying it’s them, then we make a photo copy of the ID and make a photo copy of that piece of paper they signed. We keep the hard copy and we make a file and put it in that file, so if that was a fake ID and we thought it was real we did everything in our power to make sure we thought it was real.”

The main reason for these forms are if the LCB was to send in an agent or raid the bar and check everyone’s IDs, someone underage using a fake ID couldn’t claim they weren’t identified when they walked in. The establishment can also prove the person signed the form saying the ID was really them.

The Boro Bar also uses this mechanism. “If you’re skeptical about if someone is really 21 or not, they can always fill out one of those; it covers the owner and the employees from any potential liabilities that could happen,” owner and manager Casey Ponsoll said.

Both bars explained their biggest problem with fakes is that they’re easy to get now a days and some of them can look real. But people are also using their friends IDs to try to get in too.

“[I don’t see] as many fake IDs, but I do see a lot of people try to use one of their friends IDs,” Ponsoll said. “There are some pretty good fakes out there that our doorman hascaught and if you showed it to somebody else they’d think it’s perfectly fine, but there’s little discrepancies between a real one and a fake one that you can catch.”

There are fake IDs available online that do scan and black light, but if you’ve been to the bars in town lately you’ll notice they don’t use either of those methods. The main reason is because the doormen might not notice the little differences they’ve been trained to catch if they just have to quickly glance and scan.

“We don’t have scanners because I think that people sort of become lazy if you have a scanner. When you have to actually do the math, look at the picture, look at you, look at the picture, kind of thing it’s a little bit easier to tell what’s real and what’s not,” Hargest said.

Getting past the door, the responsibility load doesn’t lighten at all. The bartenders’ lives are hectic behind the counter. They are busy rushing around trying to serve everyone at the counter as fast as possible, trying to hear over the yelling and music. They have to clean the counters, pick up the empty cups and bottles people leave around, play the music, and deal with anything else that comes along throughout the night.

Bars have the legal obligation to cut people off when they appear visibly intoxicated to try to make sure everyone is safe.

“I take many classes on learning the signs of when someone is drunk and how they will act,” Boro Bar bartender, Caleb Elder said. “Whenever I get any inclination that someone is too drunk, we give them water and make sure they have a good way of getting home.”

“The visibly intoxicated patrons (VIPs) are what we have to be careful of since if they leave and get hurt or hurt somebody, it can fall back on us,” Sydney Black said. “It’s known as Dram shop liability.”

Dram shop liability refers to establishments serving alcoholic beverages and establishes the liability of establishments, in this case the bars, serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated people who cause death or injury to themselves or another person as a result of an alcohol related incident.

“It’s difficult though because sometimes people do not show how intoxicated they are, while others who may be always exuberant and loud may seem more drunk than they actually are,” Black added.

Incident reports are also required if something major happens and are kept for two years in case something does go to court. 7

“If something were to happen, the judges look at bars who are RAMP trained as trying to do the right thing, so the penalties are less than they would be if you weren’t RAMP trained. We still don’t want anything to happen, but if they were to happen it’s better to be a RAMP trained bar,” Hargest said.

Bars around here also try to restrict how late people can stay out drinking by closing at 2 a.m. This might not seem early, but the bars in other areas, such as Buffalo close at 4 a.m. Even though bars aren’t allowed to serve drinks past 2 a.m., they are legally obligated to allow people to stay in and finish their drinks until 2:30.

Being in a college town, there is another thing Ponsoll explains he has to worry about at his bar.

“Being a college bar you have a lot of newly 21 year olds so you don’t have people that are maybe used to going out very much or drinking very much. Sometimes they don’t know their own limits, so we’ve got to keep an eye on that.”

The bars in town want to make sure everyone is having fun while in a safe environment, according to their employees, as their main purpose is to provide an inviting social environment.

“At the end of the day it’s all about making sure everyone is safe and following the law. The police are there to protect you outside the bar, just like bartenders are inside the bar,” Elder said.

Becca Martin is a Copy Editor for The Spectator.

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