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Responsible alcohol service committee forms to combat drinking issues

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Some restaurants, community members and bar owners are coming together to stop dangerous drinking in the city.

The Area Substance Abuse Council or ASAC is behind the group. It’s called the “Responsible Alcohol Service Committee” and those interested came together for the first time Wednesday night.

According to ASAC, on a per capita basis, Linn County is buying nearly twice as much alcohol as people in nearby counties.

The organization is also concerned about underage drinking. ASAC says one-fifth of Linn County 11th-graders have binge drank in the last 30 days.

ASAC members said underage drinking, binge drinking and drunk driving are a problem in Linn County. So, they’re taking the matter to the front lines where all the alcohol is being served as another way to combat the problem.

ASAC is working with the committee to identify policies that bars and restaurants can enforce to help prevent drinking problems.

The Lounge Manager at the Cedar Rapids Marriott said she’s all in.

“I thought it would be a great thing for all the different taverns and lounges and bars and everybody to be on the same page kind of and help each other out,” said Cedar Rapids Marriott Lounge Manager Kelly Knake.

The group is discussing ID policies, relationship with police and drink serving sizes.

Not everyone agreed on all of the ideas. While ASAC believes it’s a good policy not to do two-for-one happy hour specials due to binge drinking, bar owners said that is often something that draws patrons.

“They are going to be in competition with other bars, and so the practices they have directly influence how another bar operates. That’s why we feel it’s important to have some sort of standard operating procedure that the bars follow,” ASAC Prevention Specialist Jeffrey Meyers said.

Group members are hopeful they can come together to make changes.

“I think the biggest thing will be, like if you are having an issue and somebody else has the same issue you can get together and network and try to solve the problem and get a handle on it before it gets any bigger,” Knake said.

They, however, know this is a big effort and it’s only the beginning.

“We expect it to be certainly daunting at first but we think that we are making a lot of progress,” Meyers said.

The group is starting in Cedar Rapids because this is what they call the hub of the bar scene. They plan to eventually expand to surrounding communities with a goal of meeting once a month.

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