From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 2 - April 2, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

SCSO program targets underage drinking

by Tiffany Turner

Everyone knows that you must be 21 or older to buy alcohol, yet it seems inevitable that underage drinkers slip through the ID cracks and manage to have a night out on the town or head home with a six-pack under their arm.

The First Lady’s Initiative, a program started in Wyoming several years ago and instituted by the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) aims at making sure anyone who looks like they could be under 30 has to pull out their mug shot and ID and prove their right to purchase booze.

Underage residents were chosen by the SCSO to participate in the recent compliance checks and receive half of the funding Sublette County gets from the state to conduct these checks as appreciation for their service.

“I’d really like to praise the young people who volunteered to help us out with this program,” Sheriff ‘Bardy’ Bardin said.

The initiative, which targets anywhere that sells malt liquor or hard alcohol, sends an advance packet to the different establishments to remind them of the rules and that there will be compliance checks eight times each year to ensure underage people are not being served.

Around two weeks after this packet is sent out, Bardin said, an underage individual accompanied by an undercover deputy visits each establishment and asks to be served. If the person is served, the server is cited.

“It’s a program that was started several years ago,” Bardin said. “It is to basically bring awareness to the owners … and be a deterrent for underage drinkers to go in and try to buy alcohol.”

Bardin said the checks and citations have happened several times in the past, although they were not as noticed by the community as this recent group of checks were.

“I am glad it is (more public), we’re trying to get that information (out),” Bardin added. “Unfortunately, (this time) there were several that sold to a minor.”

Of the 26 establishments checked around Sublette County, eight citations were given including the Corral Bar and Country Lane Liquor in Pinedale.

Both employees cited for selling to a minor were terminated immediately.

“I have zero tolerance for it,” said Corral owner Pat Bozner. “They were told ahead of time that they were going to be doing compliance checks and to be even more diligent on checking IDs. Bottom line is eventually, with repeated citations, it could cause me to lose my liquor license.”

Bozner said although she did fire an employee over the citation, she sees no problem with the program.

“I don’t know any bar owner or restaurant or liquor store that wants to serve minors,” she said. “It’s not worth the ramifications of serving a minor, it’s against the law. … I don’t want or need their business.”

Stockman’s Restaurant and Bar was one of the establishments that passed both checks, and bartender Mary Ciapusci said it was their diligence in IDing everyone that helped them pass.

“I card people that are like, ‘You just carded me three times yesterday,’ and I say ‘I’m going to card you one time today, and if you don’t have your ID on you, you can’t come in,’” Ciapusci said. “They sent us a packet, I read it and I told the girls to read it … and then they were warned constantly to ID everyone.”

Ciapusci said the owner of the bar, Kay Buston, offered her and the other bartender that carded and passed the compliance check a steak dinner as a congratulatory thank-you.

“We had meetings when I got that packet, and I warned the bartenders that they would probably lose their jobs if they didn’t card somebody. … I have seen all of them card diligently.”

Although four establishments were cited, they have not gone through court to be validated and only one of the citations was given to an owner.

This program will continue in Sublette County in hopes of cutting down on underage drinking, and Treatment Court Coordinator Kathy Anderson is working to have the SCSO or towns implement a training program – TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) – that trains servers, sellers and consumers of alcohol on how to prevent intoxication, drunk driving and underage drinking along with what is already in place. Anderson was present at the last Pinedale Town Council meeting to bring the citations to the council’s attention as liquor, malt and restaurant licenses were up for renewal at the time.

Anderson said according to “A Comprehensive Review of Alcohol State Statutes” published in December 2008, “Alcohol is a factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages 10 to 24: one, motor-vehicle crashes; two, unintentional injuries; three, homicide; and four, suicide.”

“I was especially impressed by (and truly applaud) the owner of Country Lane’s response to his employee’s citation, which included immediate termination,” Anderson said. “I hoped by my comments to raise the awareness of the council and the citizens to the ongoing danger of such criminal behavior as selling liquor to individuals under the age of 21.”

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