There are 28 restaurants and bars in Normal permitted to serve alcohol on the premises. (Stephanie Pawlowski/WJBC)
NORMAL - Normal's Town Council overwhelmingly voted down a proposed Basset training for alcohol servers.
But, council members said they are willing to consider an amended proposal that doesn't adversely affect businesses. Under the proposal, any bar or restaurant employee that serves alcohol would have to undergo training to spot overconsumption, but the class cost is anywhere from $25 to $100 per employee. Mayor Chris Koos said he looked over restaurants with liquor license violations over the past five years.
"There have only been two businesses since 2007 that have had repeat violations, so it seems to me they're taking it pretty seriously," Koos said. "And, one of those businesses is out of business right now."
But, Councilman Jeff Fritzen said those liquor audits are looking for underage drinkers and not necessarily the things included in the Basset training. That is focused on teaching bar and restaurant employees to identify the physical effects of alcohol, signs of intoxication, learn intervention and prevention and how to handle certain situations.
All the council members who voted no, which was every member but Fritzen, cited concerns over the cost to small businesses and their employees and time to dedicate to the class.
"I don't sense an epidemic here," Councilman Adam Nielsen said. "This is an added complication for the businesses owners and if they want to do it, they can do it voluntarily."
A Heartland Community College professor and a Chestnut Health Systems employee spoke in favor of the training saying the cost could be brought down, depending on who performs the training and how many students there are in the class.
Two Normal restaurant owners also spoke against the proposal, including Tony Wargo, co-owner of Joe's Station House Pizza Pub.
"This becomes a cost, one which we can't absorb that we will have to pass on potential employees and hires, and we are already strained for potential employees and hires," Wargo said.
He also stressed concern that if Normal passes the proposal and Bloomington doesn't, it would force employees to Bloomington because there's no cost associated with a job.
Fritzen said he'd like to bring a revised program back for consideration.
"Are there nuances that could be added to make it more business friendly yet still accomplish the purpose," Fritzen asked.
The Bloomington Normal Community Campus Committee is pushing for the training in Bloomington and Normal. Fritzen is a member of the group.
Stephanie Pawlowski can be reached at Stephanie.Pawlowski@Cumulus.com.