Commonwealth Journal

July 17, 2012

Somerset gearing up for alcohol education

By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

As the City of Somerset readies itself for the arrival of legal alcohol sales, those interested in getting into the booze business will need to ready themselves with a little extra education on the subject.
Mayor Eddie Girdler announced on Tuesday that Somerset will be requiring every business and individual employed in the selling and serving of alcoholic beverages to participate in and complete a city-approved training program.
This effort is made in conjunction with the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), and will inform on the matter of responsible beverage service. 
This applies to holders of all different types of licenses — Retail Liquor Package (liquor stores), Retail Liquor Drink (bars/clubs), Retail Malt Beverage (beer sales), Restaurant Drink (individual drink sales), Restaurant Wine by the Drink, and Temporary Licenses.
Since all licenses to serve alcoholic beverages will be new, all employees must be trained prior to the opening of the sale or service.
“It’s a requirement from the state; it has to be written into your local ordinances,” said Girdler. “There are different ways of applying the training that the state requires to be in the file of every business that employs people to sell or distribute or handle the alcohol. They leave it up to each local community as to how it’s done.”
Kentucky ABC offers the STAR (Service Training in Alcohol Regulations) course, and it will be available in Somerset once a month starting in August until the end of the year. Tentative dates are August 20, September 11, October 9, November 19, and December 5. The ABC course costs $35 per person and the certification lasts for three years, said Girdler, who noted that the class likely lasts close to four hours.
Other training programs include the TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) course, and any education efforts offered by individual businesses on how to responsibly sell alcohol and monitor what customers consume.
“We’ve found that there’s a number of chain-type restaurants and businesses which provide in-house training,” said Girdler. “If they’re big enough, like Liquor Barn, Kroger, some of those (may offer it).
“We will accept in-house training,” said Girdler, “but it will have to be submitted to the city for approval. ... We’re not excluding any other training programs (besides STARS) someone may want to use.”
No online training is available at this time.
Girdler said that a draft of an alcohol policy ordinance is ready and will be submitted for consideration by the Somerset City Council this week. Since it would be a first reading, no action would be taken on it.
Next week, Girdler said, the city will hold a public hearing, to get input from local citizens on how the city’s alcohol policies should be handled. Following that, during the first two weeks of August, Girdler said, the council will vote on a second reading of the ordinance.
“There’s a 60-day window (following the election, which was held June 26) where no one can sell alcohol,” said Girdler. “If the city fails to pass the ordinance, then the state (puts rules in place) on their own and we’re not entitled to any of the money, so we want to get it in the books.”
Due to the 60-day period, August 26 would be the earliest period for actually operating an alcohol-selling business. However, said Girdler, the city is “shooting for” August 15  as the date for accepting preliminary applications and initial paperwork.
“If the ABC feels progress is being made on an ordinance, they may allow applications to be taken in the middle of August,” said Girdler, “but there will be no official action until probably September.”
Girdler specified that the city has met with local interest groups about the problem of underage drinking and what sort of mechanisms may be implemented in the ordinance to curb such activity.
“I think we’ve got an excellent ordinance proposal,” said Girdler. “The biggest thing is get community input, and to get people to understand about the 60-day window. ... We’re really excited and ready to go.”
For more information on training courses and how to take one or submit it to the city for approval, contact city attorney’s office at 679-6366 and ask for Pat.