A city ordinance amendment that would ban any bar or restaurant worker from drinking on the job is being toned down, to allow for both contracted entertainers to drink and allow workers to drink small samples.
The proposed amendment to the "sober server law," suggested by the city's alcohol policy coordinator, Katherine Plominski, would have banned any employee of a restaurant or bar, including musicians, DJs, and brewers, from drinking on the job.
The Downtown Business Improvement District also objected, in a letter from executive director, Mary Carbine:
"Tasting the product is simply part of the job for sommeliers, brewers, waitstaff, bartenders and owners of establishments. The scope of the proposed amendment appears to have other unintended consequences, such as prohibiting the owner's family from stopping by an establishment for dinner and a glass of wine, or prohibiting musicians or other performers in an establishment from having a beer."
The Alcohol License Review Committee was expected to consider the amendment at its Wednesday meeting, but will likely refer it to February, to draft a substitute.
"We're reworking it," Plominski says. "The ordinance was a first draft and we always like to work with something that's in writing…. I'm definitely comfortable taking my time on something like this."
The revised law would likely provide exemptions for entertainers. She adds, "In this new draft we want to say that sampling is allowed."
There would be a limit on sampling, however, possibly two 3-ounce servings a day. Also, family members, while not working, would be allowed to drink at the establishment, she says.
"When you cross the line into serving alcohol," Plominski says, "That's when you'd come under our ordinance." Security and kitchen staff would also be restricted from drinking.
Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, a recent appointee to the ALRC, says she wasn't going to support original amendment. "I'm not sure I understand the goal of this. We already have laws that prohibit being intoxicated while serving," she says. "The language was way too broad and covered, literally, everybody and their brother."
The amendment was being considered, Plominski says, because the current law says employees can't be "under the influence" of intoxicants, which was too vague. She says, "I can't provide people clear guidance" of what the law is.
Ald. Mike Verveer says he doesn't support any change: "Even if they limit it only to barkeeps, I still think it's an ordinance that's totally unnecessary. We've already got an ordinance that says employees cannot be under the influence."