Laws Don't Seem to Effect Bars

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(HealthDayNews) — Most bars and liquor stores continue to sell
alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons regardless of laws that prohibit
it, a new study says.

Although most states have laws that forbid bars and liquor stores from
selling alcohol to people who are obviously drunk, these laws are often
not enforced by the police and are ignored by bar and liquor store
owners. Serving alcohol to intoxicated people leads to car accidents and
violence associated with alcohol abuse.

“Despite laws prohibiting sales of alcohol to obviously intoxicated
people, the vast majority of businesses licensed to sell alcohol would
sell to someone that appeared to be intoxicated,” said lead researcher
Dr. Traci L. Toomey, an associate professor of epidemiology from the
University of Minnesota.

In their study, Toomey and her colleagues had trained actors try to
buy alcohol while appearing intoxicated. Over 10 months, actors visited
372 bars and liquor stores in 11 communities.

The research team found 79 percent of the establishments sold alcohol
to these pretend drunks.

In addition, liquor store clerks who appeared younger than age 31 were
significantly more likely than older servers at bars to sell alcohol to
clearly intoxicated buyers, according to their report in the May issue of
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Toomey believes that in many cases servers do not know what the law
is. “That should be a key part of server training programs,” she

Sometimes even though servers are aware of the law, they may not know
how to handle the customer. “They don’t want to have a hostile drunk
person to deal with,” Toomey said.

In addition, other research by Toomey’s team found that, in many
cases, management policy insists on serving intoxicated patrons. Also,
communities have not paid the same attention to this problem as they have
to underage drinking, she noted.

These laws are difficult to enforce, Toomey said, adding there are few
systemic enforcement campaigns.

Penalties for violating the law vary by state and include fines and
eventual loss of a liquor license. In addition, under what is called dram
shop liability, bars and liquor stores can be sued for damages by victims
of drunk drivers or other alcohol-related crimes.

Toomey recommends aggressive training programs for servers and
management that will clarify the law and give servers and managers the
skills to help enforce the law.

“This is a risky type of alcohol service,” Toomey said. “We need to
figure out ways to pay more attention to it, and either work with
establishments or find ways to put pressure on these establishments to
make sure that they comply with the law.”

James F. Mosher, the director of the Center for the Study of Law and
Enforcement Policy at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation,
said the findings are “completely predictable.”

“The laws prohibiting sales to intoxicated persons are not being
enforced, and they are not being complied with by retailers,” he

These are very important laws in terms of drinking and driving, Mosher
said. “We know that as many as 50 percent of drunk drivers are leaving
bars,” he noted.

These laws need to be enforced and complied with, Mosher said. There
needs to be strict enforcement and voluntary responsible beverage service
programs, he added.

If these laws are enforced, Mosher said, there would be significant
drops in drunk driving rates and in alcohol-related problems such as

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