There’s more to serving alcohol at a fundraiser or event than filling up cups and glasses.
This is the message the Napa Police Department is hoping to convey with a new requirement that all servers at special events undergo Responsible Beverage Training.
The department has recommended the training to event planners since last fall, but as of April 1, it is required for all servers before such events.
Special event planners must agree to arrange for the training in order to acquire a permit to serve alcohol.
“It’s a way of educating everybody, reducing liability and making our community safer,” said Napa Police Department Lt. Debbie Peecook.
The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control issues permits for events. But local law enforcement agencies can add conditions, such as that volunteers must stop serving an hour before closing and that event sponsors provide security.
Last fall, the Napa County DUI Task Force, which formed to address drunk driving by bringing together leaders in government and law enforcement, approached the Napa Police Department and asked if officials would be willing to add Responsible Beverage Training as a requirement, Peecook said.
“We do see the benefits of the training to our servers, especially the volunteers,” she said.
The Responsible Beverage Training course takes roughly 90 minutes and is sponsored through the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency.
“We’re looking at the servers becoming more responsible and not serving overintoxicated people,” Peecook said.
George Vasquez, a consultant who offers the trainings, said he teaches participants what their responsibilities are and the possible consequences of serving irresponsibly.
“Basically what we are telling people is alcohol is a risky product, and the risk goes to the individual,” he said.
He encourages event planners to guide volunteers on what to do in particular instances. Many volunteers have never served alcohol before and don’t know the laws and risks, Vasquez said.
“For them it is an eye opener,” he said.
Voluntary training has been offered for years, said Shirin Vakharia, the chairwoman for the DUI Task Force, but never caught on with sponsors of charitable galas. That has changed.
“We’re filling trainings regularly and adding more trainings,” she said.
Many who attend are choosing to adopt house policies.
“That’s where you take the training and make it more of a sustainable part of your organization,” she said.
The Police Department hopes to lower the risk of not only drunk driving, but also underage drinking, fights, public intoxication and other problems that can arise with overconsumption, Peecook said.
“Alcohol is really considered a drug,” she said. “It’s a legal drug, but it does cause different issues we have to deal with.”