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VODKA & VIGILANCE
On the morning of February 12, 1984, a 17-year-old girl was modeling fashions for a junior bridal show being held at the Holiday Inn in West Palm Beach, Fla. The organizers of the event had requested a champagne fountain for the reception, a perk in which the young woman freely indulged. A short time later, the girl entered a nearby restaurant--part of a chain called Bennigan's--where, in the span of an hour, she ordered and was served three double White Russians and a glass of wine. That afternoon, driving alone in her automobile, the teenager crashed into a car occupied by a family of four, killing herself and the two adult occupants of the other vehicle. The accident orphaned two children and resulted in one of the largest monetary settlements in the history of liquor liability.
In 1984, Bennigan's had an extensive server training program, according to Jim McKnight of the Maryland-based Public Service Research Group. "The problem," he says, "was that most of the information had to do with promoting liquor sales and very little attention was devoted to prevention." McKnight, who developed a model program on alcohol awareness for the U.S. Department of Transportation, was called to Florida to testify as an expert witness. "The only real piece of information Bennigan's had," he says. "was a poster hung over the bar showing intervention procedures for dealing with intoxicated procedures for dealing with intoxicated customers. But if you had an appendectomy, you sure wouldn't want to be operated on by a surgeon who had to follow a wall chart."
Today, like many other liquor retail establishments, Bennigan's requires all its employees to take a seminar that focuses on responsible alcohol service. Non-existent a decade ago, there are now scores of these programs around the country with names like TIPS (Techniques Intervention Procedures to Servers of Alcohol), TAM (Techniques of Alcohol Management), and BADD (Bartenders Against Drunk Driving). Significantly, as the liquor industry adopts responsible practices, some …