N.J. the latest to adopt ‘last drink’ law

N.J. the latest to adopt ‘last drink’ law

TRENTON N.J. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

The so-called last-drink initiative, implemented in September by state Attorney General Anne Milgram, requires police in New Jersey to divulge to the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control the names of establishments where people stopped for allegedly driving under the influence say they had their last drink. The agency stores the information in an electronic database to monitor whether an operation is regularly implicated for serving too much alcohol to customers. If the name of a restaurant or bar shows up on the list more than five times, the operator could have his or her liquor license suspended. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

While last-drink initiatives are gathering steam—Idaho officials reportedly also are working on a system to gather last-drink data—restaurant operators say they are being unfairly targeted and that any information collected from people suspected of being drunk cannot be trusted as accurate. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“How do you go by the word of mouth of someone who’s intoxicated and may be lying?” asked Jerry Fernandez, operator of the Spanish Pavilion restaurant in Harrison, N.J. “If a person goes to a go-go bar and gets pulled over, does he really want his wife to know [where he’s been]? Just asking someone who’s drunk where he had his last drink doesn’t seem like a reliable way of solving the issue of overserving.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

But the dangers posed by those driving under the influence cannot be ignored, say law enforcement authorities. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 1.4 million drivers were arrested nationwide for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Up to half of those arrests followed consumption at hospitality establishments, estimates the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, a nonprofit organization composed of police practitioners, researchers and universities dedicated to addressing how law enforcement can more effectively address specific crime and disorder problems. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

In New Jersey, about 32,000 drivers are arrested annually on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to the state attorney general’s office. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“By capturing information on where patrons had their last drink, we can further law enforcement efforts to prevent drunk driving and quality of life problems that can arise in a community from the over-consumption of alcohol,” Milgram said when unveiling the initiative. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

Nonetheless, restaurateurs say that the last-drink program could unfairly implicate operations. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“What if [the police] pull someone over and the person fails the DWI test?” Richard Dorchak, owner of the Cloverleaf Tavern & Restaurant in Caldwell, N.J., and chairman of the New Jersey Restaurant Association [3]. “That person could give erroneous [information]. It just seems like a witch hunt.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

Jon Aneson, operator of Café Madison in Riverside, N.J., said the possibility exists that intoxicated customers denied service at a particular establishment could give the name of that operation out of spite. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“People being people can be vindictive,” he said. “If they’ve been turned down for a drink at one place, they may say the name of that establishment in an attempt to get the proprietor in trouble.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

But according to ABC director Jerry Fischer, the initiative is a fair and effective way to curb over-consumption and the problems that go along with it. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“There is absolutely nothing unfair about this regulation,” he said. “If you violate the law, you are called to account for it. If you don’t, you’re not. I simply do not perceive a sense of unfairness.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

The Spanish Pavilion’s Fernandez said some restaurateurs have been wrongly accused by the ABC and are suffering the consequences as a result. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“Some [NJRA] members have been affected,” he said. “One was wrongly accused and had the video to prove it. This is a way to force us to get video surveillance [installed] on our premises, a way for the ABC to get us to put cameras in.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

The initiative, said Dale Florio, legislative counsel for the New Jersey Restaurant Association, is a “slippery slope at best.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“Obviously, we’re concerned about the application of policy,” he said. “The integrity of our members is at stake, but we’re hopeful they will apply the appropriate due diligence. They have to make sure they get the information right.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

Fischer emphasized that just because a bar or restaurant is named to the last-drink list does not mean the operator faces any immediate action, such as the suspension of his or her liquor license. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“We have made clear to all various associations and individual licensees that simply being listed on a report is not a violation and will not lead to charges,” he said. “It simply is additional intelligence that will help to lead us in our investigations. This enables us to target those who have appeared [on the list] more than once. I can tell you that our No. 1 on the list has already appeared more than 10 times.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

He added that since September, 1,400 reports have been filed. —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

Florio of the NJRA said that the restaurant association is “obviously encouraging them to comply with the law and be careful who they’re serving.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

“This is a heads-up to restaurant owners to apply good practices when serving individuals,” he said. “The bottom line is they have to be responsible and make sure they’re serving people appropriately, and, quite frankly, most of them do.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.

Spanish Pavilion’s Fernandez added: “We don’t want to come off looking like we don’t care. We understand the responsibility we have. But some of it should be on the people themselves. I go out, too, and I know when I’ve had enough. Most of us have families, and we’ve become close to our guests and customers. We’ve built relationships with them and we don’t want to see them drunk.” —A new law-enforcement program in New Jersey that’s similar to ones in effect in Colorado, Washington and Texas could result in restaurants having their liquor licenses put at risk through linkage to patrons’ drunk-driving arrests.