Classes Help Bars Deal With Alcohol Misuse - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Classes Help Bars Deal With Alcohol Misuse

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In 2011, the Montana Legislature passed the Responsible Alcohol Sales and Service Act, making alcohol server training mandatory in the Treasure State.

As owner of Red's Bar, Mike Helean knows how to deal with customers who have had a few too many.

"It's recognizing that people have had too much, and you either need to stop them or get them a ride home," Helean said.

He said this could be tricky when someone who is overly intoxicated doesn't show it.

"There's a fine line. We're responsible once they come into the bar, but who knows what they've done before they've come into the bar, and who knows how much alcohol they've consumed," he said.

Greg Munro of the University of Montana School of Law said to avoid getting caught up in a legal mess, anyone serving alcohol in their bar should be educated on state laws.

"That's the advice you give them," Munro said. "Get educated and be proactive right away. Go to their friend, and say, 'You can't let your friend drink.'"

According to state law, as a license holder, Helean carries the primary legal responsibility for making sure his bar follows alcohol laws. However, employees can also be charged and convicted if they violate the law.

"It's just getting the education to make sure bartenders know who's obviously intoxicated," Munro said.

The state requires any establishment that sells or serves liquor, and its employees to take classes on the responsibility of alcohol sales and services.

"The classes are important, because you need to let your employees know it's important to pay attention to what's going on when their working and if someone is intoxicated that they need to deal with them," Helean said.

State economists calculate in the past few years, the state suffered about $600 million worth of damages as a result of alcohol misuse. That includes deaths medical bills, property damage and everything in between.

"People around the state are becoming frustrated with the number of repeat DUI offenders, and the number of fatalities and vehicle accidents associated with that, so I think we're making difference and improvements in reducing those problems," said Missoula Police Officer Ethan Smith.

Smith teaches a government-approved "Let's Control It" class.

He said, "We want to do what we can to reduce local businesses' liability, by reducing the number of alcohol-related incidents, including car crashes, bar fights, any property damages, those kinds of things."

Government-approved classes like Smith's provide tips on how to spot fake identification, deal with alcohol misuse and handle difficult situations.

For more information on Montana's alcohol regulation law, and to find out how you can sign up for responsible alcohol sales and service classes just click here.

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