City prepares for drinking

“Beer is constant proof that god loves us, and loves to see us happy,” Bowling Green Detective Andy Mulinix quoted Benjamin Franklin at this year’s annual Liquor Establishment Employee Training (LEET) to illustrate how the Bowling Green Police Department acknowledges the importance of the downtown bars and restaurants but will stringently enforce the city’s laws to ensure safety of citizens.

There are 39 bars and restaurants in the city that serve alcohol, and 22 alone in the downtown area. Grabbing a drink on the weekends is a prominent part of Bowling Green culture, especially when school is in session, but not every happy hour has a happy ending. 

“Most of our violence, disorderly conduct and sexual assault cases usually have a component where alcohol is a part of it,” Police Chief Tony Hetrick said. “It’s a serious problem for us. We deal with a lot of drunk driving incidents here. From 2013 to 2016, the highway patrol and the Bowling Green police division arrested 1,031 persons for drunk driving within a 3-mile radius of Main and Wooster streets.”

Of those 1,031 arrests, 74 of them involved a crash that resulted in property damage, injuries or fatalities. Local agencies and law enforcement perform several procedures to keep people safe at the bars.

“At least once or twice a year, we get a case where a BGSU student dies,” Mulinix said.

The BGPD does deploy an increased number of patrols on holidays and on weekends to ensure they have the ability to respond quicker to incidents.

“We partner with the other local area law enforcement agencies including the highway patrol, the Sheriff’s office and the University police,” Hetrick said. “We also partner with the Wood County Safe Communities, as they offer ride programs. We know that college students do drink, and we know it happens and we have a lot of experience in handling it. What we try to do is to encourage correcting that behavior and move kids in a positive direction.”

Occasionally, police officers will ask underage kids to try to purchase alcohol from a bar or convenience store as a test to see whether or not the employees will sell to them. Employees who do sell to the minors often end up fired, and the establishment is issued a citation.

City Fire Chief Tom Sanderson emphasized the importance of bars holding to their establishment’s capacity limits and preventing fires, such as the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island that killed 100 people. 

“The capacity of a bar is based on the number of exits, whether or not you have a fire suppression system, whether you have fixed seats and how many tables and chairs,” Sanderson said. “So it’s going to be different from place to place. Can we get through the bar or business relatively easily? We shouldn’t be able to walk to the front and back of the building without saying excuse me a couple times. We want you to be busy, and we’re business friendly.”

Bowling Green possesses an extensive list of alcohol rules and regulations.

“Bars cannot let people leave with alcohol in their hands, and they can’t give away alcohol,” Mulinix said. “There can be no special deals like ladies’ nights or 2-for-1 specials; everyone has to pay the same price. No set prices for unlimited quantities of alcohol, and the price for draft and bottled beer must be the same.” 

Any establishment that doesn’t adhere to these restrictions could lose its liquor license.

The annual LEET is open for anyone working for a business that sells alcohol, and it looks favorable on the establishment when their employees are liquor training certified.

Mulinix said, “A lot of bar owners like to send their employees to this class to help curb alcohol related offenses here in the city, and that’s exactly why we do it.”