Earlier this month, Casper’s leaders decided against outlawing the overservice of alcohol. But the City Council — which instead decided to require servers to undergo alcohol-serving training — made it clear that the first option was still on the table if alcohol-related crime doesn’t decline.
Casper isn’t the only community in the state trying to prevent citizens from becoming overly intoxicated. At the request of the Sheridan Police Department, the Sheridan City Council banned overservice in June 2017.
“It’s all about the safety of the patrons,” said Travis Koltiska, a lieutenant at the Sheridan Police Department. “If someone is too intoxicated then they aren’t cognitive enough to make the decision (about whether to drink more) at that point.”
A copy of the ordinance states that liquor license holders and their employees must “refuse to serve any patron who is obviously intoxicated, or is obviously physically endangering people or property in the licensed premises or dispensing area.”
Those who violate the code may be found guilty of a misdemeanor.
Since the law is still relatively new, Koltiska said it’s difficult to measure its effectiveness at this point. But the officer said he believes it was necessary because Sheridan has a problem with overserving.
One of the incidents that led police to propose tighter rules involved a man purchasing alcohol from a liquor license retailer when he was already clearly drunk, according to Koltiska. Video footage obtained from the establishment showed that the man was only wearing one shoe, displayed poor balance while shopping and struggled to hold on to his wallet when paying.
But Koltiska said the business still sold the man alcohol.
“We are just trying to bring some awareness to this issue,” he said.
Since the ordinance passed, Koltiska said he only knows of one citation that has been issued for overserving. There was initially some protest from liquor license holders about the new law, but he said the overall community understood the need for stricter rules.
But Monte Buckmaster, the owner of the Mint Bar and a member of the Sheridan County Liquor Dealers Association, said many bar owners and servers believe the city’s leaders went too far.
“They’ve got it in their head that we (bar owners and servers) are pumping as much liquor into people as we can to make money,” he said. “They view that as the practice of everybody, and that’s just not true.”
After a citizen got into a fight outside of his establishment, Buckmaster said police officers asked to see surveillance tapes from inside the Mint Bar so they would know how many drinks the patron had consumed.
Buckmaster said the man hadn’t actually purchased alcohol from the Mint Bar, so there were no penalties for the establishment. But the bar owner said he felt like police were trying to pin someone else’s actions on a server.
“You have to be responsible for your own behavior,” he said.
Bar owners and servers in Casper echoed similar sentiments when the Casper City Council was considering making it a crime to overserve alcohol.
While Casper’s leaders ultimately decided to require severs and other employees at establishments that serve alcohol to undergo training within 90 days of being hired, several Council members cautioned the community that they would be looking for proof that this training was effective.
“We need to see some evidence that this training is not just being completed but it’s actually changing behavior so we’re not seeing overserving in our facilities,” said Mayor Charlie Powell, explaining that the Council would likely outlaw overserving if it continued to be a problem.
Powell also suggested passing a resolution saying that the Council would consider implementing the law if things do not improve. The Council ultimately decided such a resolution was unnecessary.
“It’s not that big of a deal to me whether we do the resolution or not,” he said. “I just wanted to give a message that we are backing off on this for now but that things have to get better.”
Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters has said on several occasions that tighter rules are needed because the overservice of alcohol is a serious problem in Casper.
According to the chief, 59 percent of people in the city who are booked into jail are intoxicated and almost half of all drivers arrested for DUIs are more than the twice the legal limit.