Bartenders take law into their hands

Bartender Devon Mathiesen serves Walt and Judy Lee.

Bartender Devon Mathiesen serves Walt and Judy Lee.

 

By LENNY DESERIO

Staff Writer

Lacy Meinel of Schofield, Wisconsin was killed on January 10th of this year, when her mother’s car was hit head on by 23-year-old drunk driver Daniel Schaeffer. According to the Wausau Daily Herald, Schaeffer was driving the wrong way on the highway when he struck Lacy’s mother’s vehicle. Shortly after her death the Wisconsin Legislature, with the help of Lacy’s parents and classmates, passed Lacy’s Law.

Other states have passed similar laws, as in the New Jersey Supreme court decision of Rapport vs. Nicholas, which states if someone drives drunk and injuries occur to an innocent third party or property the bar owner can be sued.  The court also went on to rule in the case that a drunken patron can himself sue for monetary damages for injuries he sustains since the patron is unable to exercise “self protective care.” 

Under Lacy’s Law, offenders can receive up to 25 years in prison without possibility of parole if an innocent bystander is killed or seriously injured due to a crash that’s caused by a drunk driver.  Perhaps the most controversial stipulation of Lacy’s Law comes in the form of stiffer penalties for bars and bartenders. Under the law, bars and bartenders can have their liquor licenses revoked if they allow drunken patrons to leave the establishment with their keys.

 But is taking away a drunken patron’s keys the best way to stop drunk driving? According to Millville’s Sidelines Sports Bar and Grille owner Ted Lambert, taking away a patron’s keys is not the best solution.  Lambert said, “Using physical force to stop someone that’s impaired is not a good combination.  We’ve found that looking for the clear cut signs that someone is inebriated is more effective.”  

 Lambert then went on to say, “I have my bartenders keep a tab on how many drinks per hour a patron is having.  I also have them keep on eye on their speech patterns; are they starting to slur when they talk or do they sway when they walk? These are definite signs that someone is inebriated.   If someone does become intoxicated we call the police and stall the patron until the police can get here.”  

  Whether it is taking away the keys from someone who’s had one too many or having a designated driver give them a ride home, bars and bartenders nationwide now have a greater legal incentive in keeping the public safe.

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One thought on “Bartenders take law into their hands

  1. I am in favor of any measures that can be taken to keep people from driving drunk. 13,000 deaths a year is WAY too much.

    But I have to admit that time and time again, I see the Blame Game pushing the public away from accepting personal responsibility.

    Does it make somebody less likely to get drunk and drive away from a bar knowing that much of the responsibility (including financial) will not be on their own shoulders? You point out correctly that attempting to mess with a drunk’s keys can lead to physical altercations.

    The (far more numerous) at-home drinker who drives and kills has nobody to share his responsibility with.

    Again, I am in favor of this law (and indeed, my personal goal through DrinkingAndDriving.Org is to teach people to obey existing laws) but I also hope that the Blame Game doesn’t spread further to include automobile companies, DMV’s/DOT’s, and other entities directly tied to, but not directly responsible for the actions of a drunk driver.

    We don’t teach our children that bad behavior is OK as long as they can find somebody or something else to blame. But that seems to be where society is going sometimes.

    What is needed for bars is an Effective way to prevent patrons from leaving drunk.

    Here’s my big idea for the day. Fanciful and not completely thought out, but … I enter a bar and before being allowed to sit down, I put my keys into a vending machine that gives me a ticket. To get my keys, I use my ticket and have to blow into the breathalyzer that is part of the machine. If I’m below a .05, I get to drive. If not, I try again later.

    Drinkers need to take responsibility for their own actions. Efforts to take responsibility off their shoulders is not cool by any means.

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