Story last updated at 8/20/2014 - 8:50 pm
When's the last time you've been cut off or even thrown out of a bar? Have you ever been denied entrance into an establishment because a bouncer or one of the staff felt that you were too intoxicated to enter? Have you ever been turned down from buying liquor at a grog shop because you were underage? Back in my early drinking days, when I did more firing for effect than drinking good craft beer for the flavor, those events earned me bragging rights.
Hell, even in my more mature, reformed days I've certainly been turned down after visiting one drinking establishment after another as part of an organized pub crawl. Did I get pissed off? Hardly. That's because I trust that the publican or grog shop owner is looking out for my best interest and his or her own. These trained professionals knew I was too intoxicated for my own good and might be at risk of jeopardizing my safety or others'.
As far back as 2007, I took my first Training for Alcohol Professionals, or TAP class. Back then it was called Total Alcohol Management, or TAM. TAP is a course that's conducted by the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailer Association, or CHARR.
I had to do this for the same reason that all other servers, bouncers and other employees of establishments that sell and/or serve booze do: It's a requirement and a condition of employment. Of course, although laws differ from state to state, in Alaska, "licensees and their agents and employees must take an alcohol server education within 30 days of being licensed or employed, unless they work in the Municipality of Anchorage which requires that the course be taken prior to selling/serving alcohol," according to the most recent edition of the TAP book that's provided as part of the course.
I wasn't even getting a job that required me to serve alcohol in 2007 when I went to get my training and my card. All I wanted to do was volunteer my time by serving beer at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival. I remember being pissed off, musing "Shit, I could probably teach this class; I'm Dr. Feremento after all, and I know all there is about drinking beer."
Boy, was I ever mistaken. I recall walking out of the class proud of my newly learned understanding about the alcohol-serving industry and what it takes to stay out of trouble when doing things in support of it.
Well, my resulting TAM card expired three years later and I didn't pay attention to it until I was asked to produce my card on a golf course where I was commandeered to pilot a beer cart. I was "carded" in a different way.
A week or so ago, I was asked to serve beer at a private location associated with my day job, and I promptly agreed. Give me a chance to foist good beer on unsuspecting coworkers and you can count me in. Problem is, my card remained expired.
The gig I was going to serve at was private. Why did I need a card to serve? My company had rented a place that stipulated, private or not, anyone serving booze needed the card. More and more, entities that serve or sell alcohol need to protect themselves and rules are rules, so I signed up for a new class.
I went to the four-hour class a little more open minded this time, and I learned still more.
TAP is reviewed and approved by our own Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, or the ABC. These are the industry watchdogs in town and across the state. These are the cats that can sachet into a bar or liquor store and pretty much shut it down for egregious violations of booze laws up here, many of which are confusing and conflicting.
The ABC, however, makes one thing perfectly clear: if you're serving underage patrons, if you're over-serving, or serving to intoxicated patrons or even letting into your joint, you're screwed.
TAP is designed so the place where the rubber meets the road - the servers, bouncers, publicans and liquor store clerks - is prepared to stay within compliance with the law.
The course covers the laws themselves, how to identify people that are messed up and trying to get in an establishment or that are getting trashed while visiting, how to properly card folks and how to identify under-aged folks trying to score booze and how to deal with those icky situations that come up when you have to turn people away from a place when they are hammered and trying to get in or to give them the boot. We all know how cordial and reasonable drunks are when they want something, aren't we?
The tough part about Alaska's law is that not only can the establishment be held responsible for someone who's caused damage as a result of being served alcohol, so can the person that served the individual. This is a sobering thought, if you excuse the pun. I got to thinking that at the very gig I'm fixing to serve beer at, if someone I had a beer to in turn heads out on the road and gets in a wreck, my ass could be on the line. So, the next time your server says something like "buddy, I think you've had enough," don't take it personally.
The course also cleared up some confusion for me. Although I already knew that a person cannot be delivered alcohol or an alcoholic beverage already in possession of two alcoholic beverages, I wasn't so sure what constituted an "alcoholic beverage."
In other words, I get it that I can have no more than two pints in front of me, but how come a whole tray of beer samples is cool? What about pitchers? Can I have two pitchers of beer in front of me?
I learned that a single person can have one pitcher of beer on the table and that there is an exception for beer samples. I can go into a bar, brewery or brewpub that offers samples of beer and have up to 32 total ounces.
TAP is an interesting course that goes into more than avoiding getting busted by the ABC or other law enforcement agencies. It explains Alaska's local option laws including how dry, moist and wet communities differ, how alcohol works in the body and how it differs among men, women and folks with different physiques, how to estimate a person's blood alcohol content (BAC), how to prevent or at least slow people getting intoxicated, and how to deal with the myriad of different ID types that people use to prove their age when buying alcohol.
There's more, but suffice to say, having attended the TAP class more than once, I'm even a more professional drinker (and customer) than I was before. If you're affiliated with a CHARR member organization, you get a discount, but if you're just a writer with a drinking problem like me, I paid $45 to attend the class. Call (907) 274-8133 for times and locations of classes.