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Area beverage servers undergo training this week

Law enforcement liaison officer Brian Kringen updated local servers on the ramifications of serving to minors and intoxicated adults. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Law enforcement liaison officer Brian Kringen spoke from experience when he addressed the 40 area beverage servers who arrived for responsible server training this week.

Kringen worked 32 years as a paramedic in an ambulance and helicopter in the Twin Cities before joining the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

"I saw the effects," he said of arriving at the scenes of alcohol-related accidents.

He lauded Hubbard County's social host ordinance that holds individuals responsible if they knowingly provide an environment where underage drinking occurs.

County attorney Don Dearstyne said there have been several prosecutions since the law was passed, noting a social host can be charged at any age, a recent case in Park Rapids as an example.

Some parents, Dearstyne said, would prefer kids drink in the home, taking keys away from teens as a precautionary measure.

"That doesn't work," he said. "Kids are resourceful." An extra set of keys may be stashed in a car.

Parents will not be charged if they are not aware of alcohol being consumed at the home.

But furnishing alcohol to minors is a gross misdemeanor, Dearstyne said, noting a number of area establishments recently failed compliance checks. The individuals received stays of adjudication and were placed on probation.

But he noted this may not be the case in the future.

"The goal is compliance," Dearstyne said, indicating compliance checks may be executed within the next month. "I can't guarantee stays of adjudication this time. The next round, I'm sure judges will be asking for jail time And liquor establishments could face ramifications," he said of losing licenses for up to a year.

Bartering, Dearstyne said, also will not be tolerated, citing a six pack of beer given to a minor who's shoveled a sidewalk as an example.

"Times have changed," the Vietnam vet said. "Many times it's not just booze" being introduced in young people's systems.

"Most young people don't wait," Kringen said of alcohol consumption. A Minnesota survey found 12 years to be the average age kids begin drinking.

"Alcohol," Kringen cautioned, "is the number one drug of choice for youth. And we face nasty penalties for distributing to them."

"Twenty-five percent of all alcohol manufactured ends up in the hands of minors," he told the beverage servers.

Alcohol-related behaviors include car crashes, crime, suicide and sexual activity, which can result in sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy.

"Someone here could be responsible for saving someone's life," he reminded his audience.

The culture of young people drinking has changed, Kringen pointed out. "It's not what it used to be."

Young people drink to get intoxicated. Drinking is a game, a competition and for recognition by peers, he said, providing "unusual, crazy and dangerous" examples of ways to ingest alcohol. (Keg stands, wizard sticks, eyeball shots and Boozy Bears - gummy bears soaked in vodka - were among them.)

A gross misdemeanor for providing alcohol to a minor stays on an individual's record, and the person can be subject to a $3,000 fine, a year in jail, or both.

"It's a gross misdemeanor if no one gets hurt," Kringen said. "If alcohol has been provided and an accident results in death or great bodily harm, it's a felony."

And there may also be civil charges. "Every licensee is ultimately held responsible for the actions of staff," he said.

"Lawyers like alcohol related lawsuits because they don't lose," he reminded his audience.

"It's simple. Make sure all sales are made to an adult. Check IDs. Don't guess or assume. Always ask for an ID. You should never be too busy," Kringen said.

"And when it is busy, be on red alert. Kids know busy time is prime time."

An off-sale purchase of alcohol becomes official when money changes hands. But an on-sale is official when the drink is placed in front of the person.

And don't be fooled by a youth taking an empty bottle to the bar stating, "I'll take another."

Acceptable IDs include valid passports, military identification cards, a state-issued ID, state-issued driver's license, Canadian province IDs and tribal IDs, as of 2006.

Participants were urged to have books on hand with photos of each of the states' driver's licenses. These are available via liquor distributors.

He reminded the servers it's illegal to provide alcohol to an obviously intoxicated adult.

"Don't hesitate to stop service. The last place of service is at fault," he reminded servers. Explain why - tactfully - and offer a non-intoxicating beverage and, if possible, food.

Greasy food, he said, has been found to slow alcohol absorption.

"Assure all sales are legal," he told his audience. "Serve only non-intoxicated adults. In doing so, you stay free of penalties. But more importantly, you may be preventing injuries or death."