Police plan to check compliance of liquor establishments in River Falls

Posted December 14, 2016

The River Falls Police Department (RFPD) plans to conduct alcohol compliance checks starting the first quarter of 2017, according to the department’s community policing specialist.

Officer Paul Jensen said in an email that officers and volunteers who are under the age of 21 will participate in the unannounced checks sporadically throughout the year. They will perform alcohol compliance checks and liquor establishment observations.

The main focus of the program is to make River Falls a safer community, because the department is aware of the alcohol problem in it.

“The purpose of the program is to promote responsible and safe alcohol service and consumption,” Jensen said, “and to work in partnership with the licensed beverage industry to reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic crashes, over-served customers, and serving to underage customers.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, a person needs to be 21 years of age or older to consume alcohol in a public setting. However, if a person is under the age of 21, they can still consume alcohol in a public setting if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

If an owner of a liquor license is approached by a person who appears to be under the age 21, they must ask to see proof of age. Proof includes a valid Wisconsin driver’s license with a photo or a valid Wisconsin identification card.

In regard to over-serving, Jensen said that the department routinely sees people operating vehicles under the influence, and that the suspect is usually three to four times past the legal limit, can barely walk, but was continuously served alcohol.

If an establishment fails to obey state law, the persons responsible will be cited for the violation and required to go to a free “refresher” class provided by the River Falls Police Department. The class will provide information about how to check IDs properly, alcohol sales, and other relevant laws.

A River Falls resident, Zachary Pelnar, said that he thinks the checks are going to be great. He said that he frequently sees “wildly drunk” people in the downtown area. He said he doesn’t think that bars are places for underage people.

“I want to know that when I am there, I’m not going to be around a place that serves minors,” Pelnar said.

Before the checks are conducted, Jensen said that all 38 businesses that hold liquor licenses in River Falls will receive packets of information on the initiatives and current liquor laws. He said that the packets will add a level of transparency to the department, and hopefully help it achieve the overall goal of a 100 percent success rate with no violations.