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Video Used for Bartender Certification in
 Wyoming Comes Under Scrutiny

By Juliette Rule, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jul. 8, 2005 - CHEYENNE -- A new city ordinance requires bartenders and other servers to do two things: watch a video and become a certified alcohol server within 90 days of hiring.

It would seem simple enough, but that 10-minute video is raising ire here, for both the powers who support its distribution and a lobbyist promoting safe serving.

The video's proponents say it wasn't designed to be comprehensive and in no way replaces certified alcohol server training.

A lobbyist says it hardly matters -- some of the information it contains is just plain wrong.

Wyoming Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police Association Executive Director Byron Oedekoven said the debate is just one liquor association lobbyist's way of saving face.

The video's "flaws" took on new meaning for Mike Moser, executive director for the lobbying Wyoming State Liquor Association, with the passage of the ordinance in effect for servers July 1.

While Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank agrees there are "minor" errors in the information promoted in that video, he's perplexed by all the bickering.

"You have a video produced -- to curb underage drinking," Crank said.

"Overall, that's a laudable thing. You look at underage drinking statistics for Wyoming, and we should be embarrassed."

Moser has complained loudly about that video, produced in 2003 and distributed throughout the state since then.

Among Moser's complaints:

--According to the video, underage drinking in Wyoming is lawful for juveniles served by their parents or legal guardians. That's true, but only when that serving happens in the juvenile's family's home.

The video implies it's OK for parents to buy their kids drinks at the bar, Moser said.

--The video claims alcohol can be served in Wyoming from 6 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Sunday. That's true, Moser says, but again, the video fails to inform completely.

Each municipality can create its own liquor serving hours for Sunday. In Cheyenne, those Sunday-only hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Moser said. Cheyenne Police Chief Bob Fecht agreed, reading from the city ordinance.

Oedekoven said chiefs and sheriffs personally handed out the video to liquor license holders along with a packet of information detailing local laws on alcohol sales.

--Information on identification acceptable for proof of age also is wrong, in Moser's view.

The video identifies state driver's licenses, U.S. passports, U.S. government IDs and U.S. military IDs as the four acceptable forms.

There are seven acceptable forms in Wyoming, including this state's ID cards, Moser said, but the video doesn't mention it.

State law doesn't specifically identify U.S. passports, only passports.

Canadian and Mexican driver's licenses also are OK, he said.

To Oedekoven, this is Moser's way of splitting hairs. Under Wyoming law, holders of an immigration card -- commonly called a green card -- can present that ID as proof of age.

"I asked Mike if he knew anyone who had one," Oedekoven said. "He said no."

The overwhelming majority of IDs presented by drinkers at bars and restaurants here are Colorado and Wyoming driver's licenses, Fecht said, noting that's true even during Cheyenne Frontier Days.

It's not the idea of a video training tool that irks Moser, he said.

Instead, it's the bad information about laws, hours of legal liquor sales and ID cards that get to him.

"Mike is a friend of mine," Oedekoven said. "But he's in trouble with the liquor dealers he lobbies for, and now he's trying to say there are problems with the video."

Moser's "trouble" is in his failure to convince the Cheyenne City Council to dismiss those new ordinances that Fecht and others promoted, Oedekoven said.

The Wyoming Department of Health's Substance Abuse Division supported distribution of the video, though it didn't pay for its production directly. That division provides one of four grants to the police association.

Oedekoven's association commissioned the video's production from FACE, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization. That video tailored for Wyoming servers is a disc made for viewing on desktop computers. It's distributed free to bar and restaurant owners in this and other Wyoming communities.

"Overall, the message and intent of all this is laudable," Crank said.

"I'm scratching my head over why the liquor association is pitching a fit about this."

Time spent "bickering over a video" would be better spent on changing Wyoming's troublesome underage drinking statistics, he said.

"Everyone wants to do the right thing," Moser said. "The question is, do they know what the right thing is? Videos with bad information are worse than no video at all."

The Wyoming Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police Association should see the flaws in the video and make good on a promise to produce an accurate version, Moser said.

Fixing the video would be simple enough, Moser said. Three, four or five sentences of corrective or more complete information would satisfy him.

The association has taken corrective action, and it's done it with Moser's support as well as help from the Wyoming Department of Revenue's Liquor Division, according to Oedekoven.

A letter was drafted explaining viewers should direct questions about local laws governing alcohol sales to the chief or sheriff in that jurisdiction. That was enough to satisfy Moser and the Liquor Division then, according to Oedekoven.

Nonetheless, the association is open to making a new video -- when changes in statute or ID cards are substantial enough to warrant that production cost.

That might be as early as next year, Oedekoven said.

As for problems Moser found with phone numbers, Oedekoven called them "dumb" mistakes, and Fecht said that in no way compromises the quality of the video or its message.

One number directs callers to a Colorado area code. A number for the Liquor Division is outdated.

As for Fecht, it's a conversation he's tired of having. While servers are required to watch the video before they begin working, it's designed to be very generic, basic training, he said.

Whether the producers were sloppy, misinformed or just hitting the high points of Wyoming liquor laws, Moser admits he might watch the video with a critical eye.

"We're a little more sensitive because we're in an industry where they can take away our licenses," Moser said.

-----

To see more of Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wyomingnews.com.

Copyright (c) 2005, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

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