Working as a team

Bars collaborate on how best to curb alcohol-related problems

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Liquor establishments have put competition aside in the best interest of their customers.

The Craig Liquor Association, a committee of bar owners and managers, Craig police and other businesses, met Monday to discuss ongoing efforts to combat problems surrounding the bar scene, such as underage drinking and drunken driving.

The Craig Liquor Association was formed about 1993 after three bars were shut down by the State of Colorado for alcohol infringements.

Capt. Jerry DeLong of the Craig Police Department was nominated as a liaison between law enforcement and liquor licensees, and his collaboration with the concerned business owners has since turned into a nonprofit organization.

"Before the CLA was formed, there was a 'them-versus-us attitude' between the police and the bars," DeLong said.

That attitude also existed between the bars, added Dena Garcia, owner of the Popular Bar and secretary for the CLA. "Everyone took care of their own little business," she said. "But now we all get along better and have better communication with the police."

The CLA's major concerns include drunken driving, underage drinking, over-serving at bars, drug use in bars, and fighting in bars. Innovative solutions to these issues have been implemented through the CLA.

To discourage drunken driving, the bars and All Around Taxi made an arrangement where a bar can pay a discounted price of $4, instead of the regular $6, to have a cab give an intoxicated customer a safe ride home. In return, the bars have helped fund the 6-month-old cab service, the only one available in Craig.

"If it wasn't for the sponsorship from the bars, (Craig) wouldn't have this service," said Chris Souders, owner of All Around Taxi.

The increased camaraderie between liquor establishments has led to decreased tolerance for customers who consistently cause problems around town. The bars have implemented a policy that any customer kicked out of one bar for fighting is kicked out of all of them.

If a troublesome customer is headed for another bar, the bar staff will call and warn each other.

DeLong said that liquor licensees also feel more confident to call the police when trouble arises, such as a fight breaking out. The increased cooperation with law enforcement has led to problem prevention, he said.

"In the minds of (the liquor establishments), they felt like the state of Colorado liquor division had sandbagged them," he said. "Now if there is a problem, I can call them and we can deal with it."

Currently the CLA is discussing tougher penalties for underage drinking offenses.

Liquor establishment owners feel kids trying to use fake identification would be discouraged if the fines for getting caught were higher. Mike Mathers suggested that the next step for the CLA in this issue is to refine its request and head to the City Council.

A major concern discussed at Monday's meeting was the need for increased advertisement to get out the message of responsible drinking out to the community. "Our concerns are the same as the rest of the community," said Ron LaSalle, owner of the Golden Cavvy.

"A DUI is a lost customer for us," said Tom Mathers, owner of Mathers Bar.

Garcia said there are about five businesses that have consistently been involved with the CLA: Mathers Bar, the Popular Bar, the Golden Cavvy, the OP Bar, and Cassidy's in the Holiday Inn.

Any establishment with a liquor license is welcome, though the CLA is focused more on places where people can drink on site, as opposed to liquor stores.

Garcia said the more establishments that join, the more successful the organization could be. "Some restaurants don't think they have the same problems as the bars, but it's a problem for all of us," Garcia said.

To contact the Craig Liquor Association call Dena Garcia at 824-9938.

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