WDAY: FARGO — Carol Schlossman is on a mission to make downtown Fargo safer and more livable by holding bars and restaurants more accountable for over-serving alcohol.
A business consultant and vice chair of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, Schlossman lives in a condo along Broadway.
She says the association views alcohol consumption three ways: those who drink responsibly, those who drink due to addiction, and binge drinkers, most often college students.
“We call them revelers,” Schlossman said of the latter group, adding: “It can get a little bit out of hand, especially during closing down of the bars.”
A “point of last drink” or “place of last drink” (POLD) ordinance would help police track, with a special database, where people arrested for DUI or other alcohol-related crimes were served their last drink, she said.
Businesses that show up often in the POLD data would have to demonstrate to the city how they will address the problem, or face some sort of intervention.
The approach has caught on in parts of the country, including Minnesota, in at least a dozen Twin Cities suburbs. Schlossman hopes there’s buy-in to the idea in Fargo.
“It seems pretty simple and straightforward,” she said.
Some bar and restaurant owners, however, don’t necessarily see it as simple.
Alan Kasin, owner of Pounds restaurant and bar in downtown, said businesses that over-serve alcohol should be held accountable, but that can be tough to measure.
“People show their liquor differently. There are so many variables,” Kasin said.
Fargo Police Chief David Todd declined to comment for this story, saying he first wanted to meet with Schlossman and city officials.
However, Todd addressed the idea briefly at the city’s Liquor Control Board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 19, saying backers should define the issue they want addressed.
He also said more data programming would be needed, due to multiple jurisdictions and the shared records system between Cass and Clay counties.
Schlossman said costs would include acquiring the database, training officers how to use it and educating liquor license holders. She didn’t have a dollar amount on those costs.
The information entered into a POLD database could include the alcohol-related crime, the person’s blood-alcohol level and the place they were last served.
Andy Finck, a manager at Pounds, is concerned data may not be accurate, given the amount of bar-hopping that goes on downtown. “You don’t want to target the wrong people,” he said.
Also, customers could be drunk before coming downtown or have a flask of alcohol concealed in a pocket.
Schlossman said naming an establishment doesn’t necessarily mean the person over-consumed alcohol there, but a pattern may emerge of places that do over-serve.
“This isn’t any one data point,” she said.
The information could also be valuable to a business that otherwise wouldn’t know that a customer they served was later arrested for DUI or an alcohol-related assault.
It could give the bar owner an opportunity to come up with solutions, including not offering drink specials late at night, keeping their kitchen open later, adding security or retraining servers, Schlossman said.
Law already in place
Fargo already has an over-serving ordinance in place, which prohibits selling alcohol to someone obviously intoxicated.
It was introduced and passed in 2003 in response to an incident in the fall of 2002, in which a North Dakota State University student nearly drank himself to death at the Bison Turf bar.
It was difficult to enforce, however, because it required a witness to corroborate a police officer’s observation. Recently, the city amended the law to eliminate the witness requirement.
Schlossman thinks a POLD system would back up that existing ordinance, with better information.
She’ll speak about the proposal at an upcoming meeting of the Fargo Neighborhood Coalition.
If Fargo adopts the idea, she hopes West Fargo and Moorhead will consider it as well.
It’s not about spoiling people’s fun or making things difficult for bars and restaurants, she said.
“We’re hopeful they will see it as an asset and something that will really help keep our neighborhood safer,” Schlossman said.