Savannah will ‘card’ its bar workers

Savannah will ‘card’ its bar workers

Less than a year after the City Council created a new ordinance requiring alcohol training, criminal background checks and registration of bartenders, servers, managers and door security, the Savannah Revenue Department has completed the process on all but about half a dozen of the more than 80 bars and hybrid restaurants for its end of August deadline.

About 600 workers have been registered.

For some, it’s a fresh opportunity to raise objections about another layer of government oversight on grounds it threatens livelihoods and burdens small businesses. For others, it’s a common sense step that has Savannah finally catching up to a practice other cities have long imposed.

Buddy Clay, the city’s director of revenue, also oversees the city’s alcohol enforcement team. He views the required mandatory training as something the city should have had from the start.

“I think the value the training adds is knowing how to spot fake IDs and how to handle people at the door,” he said. “We need to emphasize the problem of fake IDs and, more importantly, recognizing when they’re selling to impaired customers.”

For Sherry Page, a Savannah bartender for many years, it’s all a bit much.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “I feel like bartenders are baby sitters now more than bartenders.”

Malinda Orr Johnson and her mother, fake id Gloria Orr, both work at Nettie’s Lounge on West Gwinnett. They didn’t consider the $25 registration fee too burdensome and supported the registration.

“It’s a good idea,” Orr Johnson said. “You don’t want to hire just anybody.”The council re introduced bar card registration last year after a check at Wild Wing Cafe resulted in citations for serving minors and revealed what city officials and some bar owners considered a gap in enforcement.

The bartender cited had to go to court and pay fines and lost his job. But he was hired at another bar and was under no obligation to report his citation. Bar owners risk losing their liquor licenses, and offenses are tracked by the city and state.

Under the new ordinance, a cited bartender or server can lose a license for up to two years.

Stephanie Moore finds that prospect a little intimidating. As a server in Atlanta, she was required to undergo training there and was a little surprised she didn’t need it here.

She agrees with the training, but even with it and several years experience, she’s worried about making a single mistake.

“It’s kind of a scary thing,” she said. “If that person walks out with a receipt with your name on it (and they are underage or charged with DUI) they’re gonna come back to you, and you can be held personally liable. I’m just trying to work and earn money.”

Revoking a bar card isn’t an automatic process. Employees will get an administrative review before city officials make a decision, Clay said.

In an August bar sweep by state revenue officials, a Savannah bar worker was cited for serving an underage customer the day she had applied for her permit, Clay said. Because the case has not been adjudicated, the city issued her the card pending outcome of her court case.

The loophole

That same state sweep also highlighted a loophole in the city’s ordinance.

Of 30 businesses checked, seven were cited, fake id Clay said.

Three of those were restaurants, which are exempt from the bar card registration.

Those cited were: Cilantro’s, 135 W. Bay St.; Garibaldi’s Cafe, 315 W. Congress St.; Ruan Tai, 17 W. Broughton St.; Jen’s Friends, 7 E. Congress; Bacchus Wine Lounge, 309 W. Congress St.; Murphy’s Law Irish Pub, 409 W. Congress; and Saya Lounge, 109 W. Broughton.

The city, fake id generator Clay said, could review the decision to exempt restaurants that serve alcohol, but from an administrative view, he said, that would require hiring additional workers to create a separate work unit to run the registration system.

Getting the program established, he said, took “an astronomical amount of staff time” and pulled revenue employees off tax accounts that needed attention.

Rather than require all restaurants with liquor licenses to register, the city opted to make that an added possible penalty for restaurants that are cited.

Alderman Van Johnson, however, says the city should be prepared to require registration for anyone who helps provide alcohol, no exceptions.

“That’s a loophole that was inadvertently created, and now we need to come up with a way to address it,” he said. “The goal is for us not to place the responsibility solely on the backs of businesses.”

The bar card registrations, Johnson said, are one phase of stepped up enforcement that is needed. The city also needs to intensify its efforts to prevent fake IDs and to punish those who purchase liquor for minors, best fake id sites he added.

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