Public Comment

Commentary: Berkeley Urgently Needs Responsible Alcoholic Beverage Service Training

By Emer Cunningham
Tuesday April 25, 2006

On April 25 the Berkeley City Council will vote to consider a comprehensive Alcoholic Beverage Sales Commercial Activities Regulation plan. One aspect of this proposal is mandatory Responsible Beverage Service training (RBS) for licensees, managers, servers and clerks prior to selling alcoholic beverages. 

A resident of the Berkeley community for four years and a patron at local Berkeley bars, I see mandatory RBS training to be of paramount importance to secure the safety of Berkeley residents who are consumers at these bars and to ensure more quiet and peaceful neighborhoods. 

Through my participation with a student division of the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition at UC Berkeley, Students for a Safer Southside, I performed observations of five bars and restaurants within a quarter-mile of the campus. Upon obtaining the same Responsible Beverage Service training that a bartender would receive, I was able to assess the current sales and service mechanisms on the premises. My results were shocking: At three of the five locations I evaluated, servers themselves were noted to be consuming alcohol while working. In addition, patrons exhibiting signs of obvious excess intoxication were served. These practices are against the law. What is more, examination of driver’s licenses and identification cards was unsatisfactory. Bouncers were inconsistent in regards to verifying age, and underage drinking on premises was confirmed.  

In the restaurants my group reviewed, transition times from day time food consumers to evening drinkers proved to be problematic. Around 10 p.m. when hand stamps verifying age were given upon entrance to the location, three employees did not question those remaining on the site after their dinner for their identification. This would not be a problem if the servers knew to simply ask the patron to wave their hand stamp during this challenging changeover period from restaurant to bar. 

These behaviors will be improved if the correct education program is implemented. Responsible Beverage Service training is such an education program to teach licensees, clerks and servers the acceptable and lawful manner in which to provide alcohol and the repercussions which occur when they act against the law. Berkeley would not be the first city to institute a mandatory RBS training program. Poway, San Buenaventura and Newport Beach have already set such precedents thereby making a commitment to their city’s welfare. Responsible beverage sales and service training is cited as a U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Best Practice. The course is officially supported by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. For all of these reasons I see it as essential that on April 25 the Berkeley City Council vote to consider the Alcoholic Beverage Sales Commercial Activities Regulations to improve the quality of life in our city. 


Emer Cunningham is a member of Students for a Safer Southside, a division of the Alameda County State Incentive Grant.›