Friday, May 8, 2015

Guide Series--To Serve or Not to Serve

There are a lot of new guides hanging out now and with that, rules and regulations often get bounced around and interpreted or re-interpreted - sometimes accurately and sometimes not. A recent issue spawned quite a bit of debate that I think is worth taking a look at. The problem is, I don't really know what is the correct interpretation of the rule.

The question is:  Is it legal to offer alcoholic beverages to clients? Now, I've always been told that it is not legal to serve alcohol to clients unless the outfitter you're working for has a liquor license. Many of the lodges do as does a couple of the the shops so as long as the beer or alcohol come from them, it's ok. The argument is if you're just giving it to the client and not charging, why do you need a license? And why then, is it ok for a shop that doesn't have a liquor license to put out coolers of beer at the end of the day for their clients?

With just about every outfitter I know, lunch and beverages are included in the price of the trip. Because they do say beverages are included, it is as if you are charging the client for those beverages. It's been negotiated as part of the services that are being paid for. Therefore, if those beverages contain alcohol, it would make sense that you would need to have the appropriate license to serve them.

There are a couple other angles to this that seem to make sense as well, first of which is that of liability. I haven't asked but I would assume that if I were serving alcohol, my insurance company would not only want to know, but they would probably have to write a policy that adjusts for the inherent risk of serving alcohol. I'm guessing that's a substantially different and costly policy adjustment.

Also, by having a license to serve alcohol, you are registered with the state and governed by a different agency that oversees the processes for serving alcohol with it's own rules and bylaws. Part of the requirements of that license is training those individuals that are in direct contact with customers to understand the laws as they pertain to recognizing someone who is clearly intoxicated. Servers are also trained to ID individuals and are responsible for recognizing minors that cannot be legally served in the first place. Ultimately, (and you may not agree with this but it is what it is,) servers are responsible for customers who are either too young to drink or are clearly intoxicated and are charged with the responsibility of not serving them. It would then make sense that because we don't require guides to go through the training as a licensing requirement, we can't serve our guests alcoholic beverages. However, folks can bring their own booze and in this case, we can't be held responsible.

Again, there are some inconsistencies that I don't have an answer for. If you are a guide working for an outfitter who does have a liquor license, I realize that they aren't requiring you to go through those trainings either. I would say that they must be willing to take on the risk of allowing you to serve their clients alcohol but I believe according to the letter of the law, you should be required to have the appropriate trainings.

Here's the bottom line; if you're working for me, don't serve your clients alcoholic beverages. And don't even bring beer on the boat for the after-party because every time you open that cooler, you're opening up the door for your clients to ask for it. Do what some of the more proactive guides are doing and keep a separate cooler in your truck with ice and a couple cold ones for after you get off the water. Trust me; it will save you the hassle of explaining to your clients why you can't serve them beer and it will save you plenty of money not having to provide beer to your clients over the course of the season.

Keep 'em where they live...

Alright, so I did some research and looked at the rules for the Board of Outfitters and even contacted them directly and the only rule I can see is in 24.171.2301 of the administration rules addressing unprofessional conduct and misconduct stating, an outfitter shall "not use alcohol to the extent that the use impairs the user physically or mentally, while engaged by a client;" which doesn't really answer the question. What I was told was that I should contact the Department of Revue, Liquor Control. I don't want to open up a can of worms here but I would like to know what is legal so I did send them an email and am waiting to hear back from them.

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