Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Guide Series - To Serve or Not to Serve, Ruling

After doing some research, I received this email from the compliance specialist for the Liquor Control Division of the State of Montana:

The Lodge with the liquor license must serve only on their licensed premises.  Their licensed premises has been identified by Liquor Control with a floor plan submitted at application.  There should be no service or consumption of alcohol - off of the licensed premises. 

But, anyone of legal drinking age may go hiking, rafting, etc. and consume alcohol in the national forest.  You may also share your alcoholic drinks with others.

Is it clear - the alcohol is purchased from the licensee?  Is the beverage purchased always beer, or could they have a soda?  I can’t make the assumption that the alcohol is part of the purchased package.

This is a situation that will need to be looked at with each individual and how they are operating.

According to this, it looks like there are a lot of us out there with the wrong interpretation of the rules. It does sound to me like you are in your legal rights to share beer with your clients on the river. There is no rule from the Board of Outfitters prohibiting this either. And as for the lodges, I know I was way off thinking their license covers them. They actually have more of a non-compliance issue by having the license, which definitely seems odd but I don't pluck the chicken; I just watch the feathers fly.

What this doesn't address, however, is the issue of liability. I still don't think it's a good idea to serve alcohol because of the increased liability and I think your insurance agent would agree. However, each case is different and I certainly am not going to judge another outfitter for providing beer for clients they've been fishing with for years. As a guide, I'd check with the outfitter before providing alcohol and honestly, it's a cost you don't have to incur. I realize most of the guides have their own insurance but if something bad happens, the outfitter is ultimately responsible and it doesn't matter how much insurance the guide has, they are still going to go up the food chain. If they bring their own though, I say have at it. It's their trip but don't be afraid to pull the plug if things go south.

This reminds me of a group of guys I guided a few years ago that ultimately led to the retirement of a friend of mine from guiding. (He chose to go back into concrete full-time after these guys.) The guys canceled a boat so I took them the first day and Jeff took them the second just so neither one of us lost two days.

They showed up that first day with a box of wine and crushed it by lunch. They were horrible anglers but just wanted to throw dries all day in the bright sun. The alcohol definitely didn't help their abilities. They only put one fish in the boat between the two of them and that fish was only caught because I dropped the biggest prince nymph off the guy's stimi I had and when a brown came up to the dry, the guy was so late hey foul-hooked the fish with the dropper. We couldn't even throw anything smaller than a size 4 stimi because they wouldn't be able to see it.

Day two, Jeff took them. He asked how they did the day before and when they told him, he knew he was in for trouble. The difference is on day two, they brought a bottle of Jack. Again, they crushed it by lunch. I got a call from Jeff the next day telling me he's never guiding again.

Apparently, the guys got so drunk they were drifting along fishing and in one of the deepest holes in the river, right across from Bernie the Billionaire's place, the guy in the front checked out for a second and went head-over-heels out of the boat. He immediately woke up when his face hit the water but Jeff had to jump up and pull him in before he sank to the bottom.

"That's it!" Jeff proclaimed. "Sit down. We're done," and he rowed as fast as he could to the take-out.

While Jeff was pulling his rig out, the other guy took a digger off the ramp and Jeff had to fish him out. The first casualty of the day was feeling a bit guilty but still didn't understand how he got so wet so he tried to help Jeff with the boat only to send one of his oars floating down-stream. Now Jeff was wet and really pissed.

These guys were so drunk, Jeff had to call the shop and have someone drive them to where they were staying. They had to come back the next day to pick up their truck; thus ending these 70-year-old's frat party because they both passed out before getting to their rental house.

They came to party and they really didn't care that much about catching fish. It was an excuse to get them all together and it's their prerogative to do with the $500 trip on the water they choose to. But their is this issue of safety and liability and I'd never blame a guide for pulling the plug when things are getting out of hand. It's too bad it led to Jeff quitting guiding though but he is one hell of a concrete sub...

Keep 'em where they live...


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