Restaurants support work of Summit Prevention Alliance |

Restaurants support work of Summit Prevention Alliance

Recently, an editorial appeared in the Summit Independent that served to create the impression that the Summit Prevention Alliance (SPA) was prosecuting a prohibitionist agenda and was responsible for fomenting a climate that in some way would abridge the “right” of an individual to consume copious amounts of alcohol.

We would like to take this opportunity to address some of the issues raised in that column.

Beverly Gmerek, the SPA officer to whom the column alluded, has her position funded through a grant from the Colorado State Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and is specifically charged by the grant to develop, in concert with the surrounding communities, strategies designed to reduce the incidences of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Members of the Summit County Restaurant Association have been involved with Beverly, former director Susan Robertson and current director Jeannie Ringelberg for the last several years on many committees and community forums.

These meetings were, and continue to be, attended by community leaders, government officials, members of the restaurant and alcohol industry, state liquor officials, concerned parents and citizens, members of local law enforcement agencies and county judges.

Concerns were voiced that due to the increasing density of liquor licenses in the county – creating an ultra-

aggressive marketing environment and driving prices down – in conjunction with the increasing traffic along county roads and an increasing number of DUIs, that it was only a matter of time before people began dying in the increasing number of alcohol-related accidents.

It is important to remember that four years ago only Tipsy Taxi existed as an alternative ride option. It operated only in Breckenridge and was administered by the Summit Stage, the Breckenridge Restaurant Association and the Summit Prevention Alliance.

There were no consistently offered server training programs and people were very concerned about a perceived underage drinking problem.

As a result of these meetings, it became evident that there was a need for a coordinated countywide effort on the behalf of a coalition of county agencies and organizations to help combat the problem of drunken driving.

A three-pronged approach of education, enforcement and alternative ride options was adopted as the desired approach to address the concerns of the forums’ participants.

The Drunk Driving Prevention Committee (DDPC) was charged with developing and implementing strategy.

Fast-forward four years later. Largely due to Beverly’s perseverance and leadership, there is now late-night bus service until 1:30 a.m. every day.

Also, the Tipsy Taxi Program has morphed into the countywide Last Resort Program, a voucher program supported by a new Summit County cab company and the Summit County and Breckenridge restaurant associations that is designed to give free rides home to the people that need them.

TIPS and Barcode classes are now consistently available through the SPA and the number of certified alcohol servers has never been higher.

Underage drinking, which will always be a problem, is less of an issue due to consistent compliance checks at alcohol sales outlets.

The Drink Smart program is a highly visible campaign designed to educate visitors and residents of the physical dangers of high-altitude drinking as well as the cost of getting behind the wheel and driving after drinking.

Through the DDPC, a constant dialogue exists between members of law enforcement, the retail alcohol industry and town governments – mediated by the SPA – in which new strategies are discussed and evolved.

What these accomplishments represent and reflect is not just the commitment of the SPA but also of all of the community agencies and organizations that continue to participate in promoting not just responsible alcohol service, but responsible consumption in licensed establishments as well.

The Colorado State Liquor Code as well as the local licensing authorities (town or county government) ultimately set the parameters by which local retailers can operate.

The state code, for example, prevents licensed establishments from serving visibly intoxicated patrons or serving someone under the age of 21.

The local authorities have wide-ranging control in terms of censure and can considerably influence the conduct of establishments.

It was in regarding this issue that Beverly Gmerek addressed the Frisco Town Council recently. This strategy of involving local licensing authority more pro-actively to positively influence the conduct of licensees was discussed and tasked to Beverly at recent DDPC meetings.

Far from condescending, her presentation was thorough and informative and addressed specifically the many responsibilities and options of the town council as local licensing authorities that, based on the ensuing conversations, were not remotely apparent to many of them.

We congratulate the accomplishments of Gmerek and her associates at the SPA and honor them for their high degree of dedication. We urge them to continue to lead in the discussion of these very relevant community issues. It would be very difficult to quantify how many lives have been saved by their hard work.

This guest commentary was submitted by Bob Starekow, Rob Spence, Dan Fallon and Doug Pierce, representing the Summit County Restaurant Association Board of Directors.

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