West Baraboo Approves Sober Server Ordinance

The Village of West Baraboo approved an ordinance Thursday that prohibits bartenders and other alcohol vendors from being drunk on the job.

Owners and employees of establishments within the village that are licensed to sell alcohol will be subject to a $100 fine if they register a blood-alcohol level above the legal driving limit of .08 percent while tending bar, serving or selling alcohol, verifying customer ages, or supervising employees.

“The idea behind this is when you are entrusted with a license to serve alcohol, there are certain responsibilities; you have to enforce certain laws,” said Julia Potter, an attorney with Boardman Clark LLP for the village of West Baraboo. “You can’t serve underage people, you must check IDs, you can’t serve intoxicated people, and all of those things are harder to do when you yourself are drunk.”

Potter said village officials can take violations of the ordinance into account when they consider whether to revoke, suspend or not renew someone’s license.

West Baraboo joins seven other Wisconsin communities in passing sober server ordinances. They include La Crosse, Jackson, Neenah, Madison, Kenosha, Wausau, and Waukesha.

Board members questioned how the village will enforce the new ordinance. Potter said the rules to her knowledge are not strictly enforced in other communities and usually come up when police are called to bars for other reasons and notice intoxicated servers.

Board members agreed the rule would give police enforcement powers.

“I think it’s important to have the law on the books so when the situation does arise, we don’t have police officers saying, ‘What can we do?'” said board member Jim Allen. “I think we need to have something on the books.”