New Sober Server Laws: Do Bars Need Sober Workers?

Earlier this week in Wausau, Wisconsin, the city council voted 8-2 to approve a new sober server ordinance banning servers and their supervisors from drinking on the job. Drinking up to 0.04% blood-alcohol content would be permitted — but go beyond that level and the sober workers policy would be violated, leading to fines of $50 for the first violation, $200 for the second, and 25-point penalties for each citation. Once an establishment reaches 100 points under the sober workers law, they face revocation of their liquor license.

Though Wausau’s sober servers ordinance was vetoed by Major Jim Tipple less than 24-hours after its passage, the law brought up a host of questions regarding the importance of sober workers. Does it make sense to expect bars to have sober workers? And why is sobriety in the workplace so important?

Sober Workers Behind the Bar

Serving Visibly Intoxicated Customers

If a bar has no sober workers, it might fail to enforce the laws against serving intoxicated patrons. All 50 states except Florida and Nevada have laws against serving visibly intoxicated customers, though the specific ordinances vary widely from state to state. Experts agree that these laws are largely unenforced, even when intoxicated patrons are improperly served and go on to injure others or themselves. The fact that bars make money off of serving alcohol also complicates the laws. Add to that the fact that bartenders and servers are allowed and even encouraged to drink alcohol with their patrons, and the enforcement of these laws becomes even more difficult. Without sober workers, who will determine a patron’s limits?

Preventing Patron Accidents & Injuries

Test Smartly Labs | New Sober Server Laws: Do Bars Need Sober Workers

Overserved patrons in states nationwide have caused countless injuries and accidents, including some fatal car crashes. Recent fatal crashes in Texas and New Mexico underscore the benefits of sober workers, as better monitoring by bartenders and other employees could have prevented the patrons from being overserved and perhaps prevented the accidents from occurring. Laws ensuring sober workers could stop drunk patrons from harming themselves and others.

Lowering the Public Costs of Alcohol Abuse

Lawmakers also think that sober workers ordinances can lower the rising costs of alcohol abuse, removing some of the burden from taxpayers. According to the CDC, alcohol abuse cost the US $223.5 billion in 2011, with governments paying 60% of the associated health care costs. With sober workers paying more attention to intoxicated patrons, the public costs of alcohol abuse should decrease.

Reducing Workplace Injuries & Improving Bartenders’ Health

Bartenders frequently handle glass and carry heavy items — kegs and boxes of liquor, for example — as a routine part of their job. Consuming alcohol on the job could lead to mishandling of these items and possibly contribute to workplace injuries. Plus, sober workers laws would save bartenders from binge drinking, a practice that presents serious health risks.  In a 2o13 study of bartenders in Denmark, 28% of participants reported drinking in excess of the recommended daily limit. Under sober workers policies, bartenders would still be able to consume a limited amount of alcohol, but not enough to qualify as binge drinking, which would improve their overall health.

Interested in Implementing a Sober Workers Policy?

If you manage a bar, restaurant, or any other workplace and you’re interested in creating and implementing a sober workers policy, your local Test Smartly Labs may be able to help. Many of our locations nationwide specialize in policy review and creation, implementation, and employee training. We can make sure that your comprehensive sober workers policy is carried out seamlessly and effectively. And Test Smartly Labs also offer workplace drug and alcohol testing to help you ensure that your employees are obeying sober workers policies.

If you’re ready to implement or enforce a sober workers program at your company, find the Test Smartly Labs near you today!

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