Police, downtown Steamboat bars discuss ways to curb over-serving
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs police plan to increase bar checks this winter with the hopes of curbing over-serving and the accompanying drunken debauchery.
Capt. Jerry Stabile said the issue was discussed last month with a group of downtown business owners, transit officials and others with a stake in ensuring downtown is a safe place for visitors to dine, drink and be entertained. The group is called the Hospitality Resource Panel, which Stabile said has a goal of building partnerships.
“We all know we are in it together,” Stabile said. “They’re supportive, and they realize the liability as well.”
Mainstreet Steamboat Springs General Manager Tracy Barnett said people being over-served alcohol was identified as a priority for the group to tackle. The Mainstreet group includes several bar representatives. Barnett said there is a sense among some people that the issue with people getting too drunk or mixing alcohol with prescription drugs is more prevalent these days.
“We’re trying to get ahead of the game by being more diligent,” Barnett said.
Stabile said actual statistics compiled by the police department show officers deal with a high volume of calls that involve people who have been drinking. Between Jan 1. and Oct. 31 of this year, there were 273 total calls that involved drunken people. There were 91 DUIs and 88 cases of people being taken into protective custody, which mainly involves people being taken to detox at the Routt County Jail.
Melissa Baker, owner of The Tap House Sports Grill and Old Town Pub, said Wednesday that she and other bar owners have taken steps to maintain a safe environment.
“We’re all working toward the same thing,” Baker said. “We all want a thriving nightlife with a safe environment.”
At her bars, the employees now have radios they can use to communicate and warn one another about potential problems. The radios proved useful just Tuesday night after a man got kicked out of the Tap House and walked straight over to the Old Town Pub.
“He didn’t even get in the door because we knew he was trouble,” Baker said.
There is talk of implementing a communication system throughout the downtown bars.
The issue of over-serving is a little more difficult to tackle.
“I don’t think there is any bartender in town that would serve someone start to finish until they are face down,” Baker said.
She said it is sometimes hard to tell how drunk someone is or is about to get. For example, someone could have just finished several strong drinks at another bar, and the alcohol has yet to cause significant impairment.
Stabile acknowledged the difficulties, and how it can be hard for a bartender to know how much someone has had to drink or how many pills they took before coming to the bar.
Stabile said the police department is taking a proactive approach to the issue.
“Classic community policing is identifying a problem, getting feedback from all the players and coming up with logical solutions,” Stabile said.
Baker said she does not think drunkenness is necessarily a bigger problem downtown. She said problems and incidents might actually be on the decline because of an increased police presence downtown and a dedicated officer assigned to the beat.
She said she will continue to express to her employees the importance of not serving anyone too much alcohol.
According to Steamboat Police Detective Josh Carrell, Colorado law states it is illegal for a liquor establishment to serve someone who is visibly intoxicated or to serve habitual drunkards. A person has to be classified as a habitual drunkard by a judge, and Carrell never has heard of that happening here.
Stabile said Colorado’s Liquor Enforcement Division went undercover and did one check during the fall to look for people being over-served in Steamboat. There were no violations.
He warned there will be more checks this winter.
“If we can get 30 percent of the establishments that serve alcohol to be a little more educated, that’s pretty impactful,” Stabile said.