CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — From behind the bar of a silver-era saloon, Joe Dunn on Thursday encouraged lawmakers pushing for small-town Nevada establishments like the one he manages just inside the Utah border to train staff in preventing intoxicated patrons from driving.
With recreational marijuana sales scheduled to begin later this year, Nevada legislators and safety advocates believe it is time to include rural bars and restaurants like the century-old Overland Hotel and Saloon in the state’s training initiative to combat impaired driving.
“In most of the smaller taverns, it’s just the person behind the bar — they’re responsible,” Dunn said in a telephone interview. “If you’re not aware of your responsibilities, bad things can happen.”
Bouncers, bartenders and waiters who serve alcohol in and around Las Vegas and Reno are currently required to take a course every four years in recognizing drunken patrons, when to stop serving them and how to interact with them.
The law does not apply to counties with fewer than 100,000 residents, effectively meaning no alcohol-service training is required outside the two metropolitan areas.
Democratic Sens. Mark Manendo, of Las Vegas, and Julia Ratti, from the Reno suburb of Sparks, want to change that. Their proposal would require all waitstaff in Nevada to take the training.
They argued at a legislative hearing that the imminent increase in marijuana consumption necessitates expanding the instruction that’s been a staple in Clark County for three decades.
Bartenders in remote areas of the state said the mandate would be manageable given the availability of low-cost, online training. They did not speak to a proposed amendment that would require such training to take place via live videoconference, if not in person.
“To enforce it I think would be a difficult undertaking,” Dunn said. “There’s so many little mining towns with one little watering hole in the town.”
Christine Adams and Laura Oslund, members of Nevada’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan task force, suggested at the hearing that any fines local law enforcement officers levy on non-compliant establishments benefit the town or county where they’re collected. Those dollars could fund additional compliance checks, they said.
Sheryl Dougherty, bartender at R&D’s Bar about 120 miles east of the state Capitol in the town of Gabbs, said she hopes the state mails notifications of any legal changes to businesses that would be affected.
With around 1,000 residents and not a traffic light to speak of, Dunn said regulars at the Pioche saloon typically walk to and from it.
But rural areas are not immune to impaired driving, and supporters say educated, aware barkeeps can make a difference.
“The last thing you want to do is let anyone get hurt,” Dunn said.
No one spoke in opposition to Senate Bill 440 at the legislative hearing and lawmakers took no immediate action on it.
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