Should Milton ban drunken bartending?

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Greg Peck
July 3, 2013

Generally speaking, no one should drink on the job. Bartending, however, is no ordinary job. Bartenders are a breed of their own. They become friends, confidants and counselors to their customers. A good bartender might reasonably accept a drink when a good patron offers to buy.

Becoming drunk while tending bar, however, is a different issue. How can a bartender keep order while drunk? How can he or she be inebriated and stay alert to someone else overindulging, a potential underage drinker or a brewing dispute that might lead to fisticuffs?

Yet that’s what happened at a tavern on Milton’s Merchant Row. A female barkeep was so intoxicated that a patron reported she passed out behind the bar. She later blew a 0.40—a blood-alcohol level four times the state’s legal limit to drive.

Odd as it may seem, while state law bans bartenders from serving alcohol to drunken patrons, she broke no law by being intoxicated herself.

In response, Milton is considering an ordinance prohibiting licensed bartenders from being drunk on the job. That might seem reasonable, and Milton’s proposed blood-alcohol limit of 0.08—the state’s limit drinking and driving—seems to be a sensible bright line that a barkeep shouldn’t cross.

On the other hand, is this an overreaction to an isolated incident? We’ll share our perspectives in our editorial Friday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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