Alcohol training topic of talk

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A group of Steamboat Springs restaurant and bar owners said Thursday they can't afford and shouldn't have to close down their businesses for a day every year to re-certify employees who serve alcohol.

Unable to reach consensus on what alcohol recertification requirements Steamboat businesses should adhere to, the City Council left the decision in the hands of a group of business owners, police officers and city employees.

The discussion took place during the monthly meeting of the city's Liquor Licensing Authority - the City Council. Alcohol recertification requirements for restaurant and bar employees became an issue after the City Council learned in September that workers at Amante Coffee, which serves alcohol, had never been trained to do so.

There is no state law requiring employees who serve or sell alcohol to complete a training course. The city of Steamboat, however, does require that training for all such workers.

In September, council members agreed it would be appropriate to revisit the city's ordinance regarding training for alcohol servers.

In 1988, the City Council passed an ordinance that required alcohol servers working in bars, restaurants, liquor stores and gas stations to be re-certified every three years in alcohol server training. That requirement was deleted from the ordinance in 1999 after Steamboat Springs Restaurant Association members argued that recertification every three years is not beneficial for employees.

On Thursday, several business owners reiterated that stance. They told council members that implementing strict recertification requirements is unnecessary because many businesses take it upon themselves to continue educating their employees post-certification.

"I understand that there is some value in these alcohol server training classes, but it's not rocket science," said Jeff Little, owner of the Ore House at the Pine Grove restaurant. "We deal with the stuff they teach in these classes, like checking IDs and not over-serving people, on a daily, nightly basis. Once you take the class, I'm sorry, you got it."

Tony Dickson, owner of The Gondola Pub & Grill, said it would cost business owners thousands of dollars to close down their establishments every season in order to re-certify their employees.

City Clerk Julie Jordan said it would be almost impossible for the city staff to enforce such recertification requirements.

City Council members suggested having police officers teach the alcohol server training courses and spend time talking to employees about how to serve alcohol responsibly.

Police Capt. Joel Rae told the council that three officers will attend a Training Intervention Procedures for Servers of alcohol, or T.I.P.S, course in January. Rae said those officers could train servers from a law enforcement perspective.

"We will be teaching the basic T.I.P.S. course, but with a twist. We will be able to introduce some other information for servers based on our police perspective," Rae said.

Bill Gardner, owner of the Butcher Shop, said he would support law enforcement agencies and district attorneys that want to be involved in the training process.

"If you're looking to make things better for us, bring in the officers, bring in the legal (system), put it all together and give us a good one," he said.

The City Council asked a group of police officials, city employees and liquor license holders go come to an agreement on how they think the city should handle recertification for workers who serve alcohol. Council members said they would consider that agreement before making any final decisions.

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