New RI Regulation Requires Bartenders, Servers Be Drug/Alcohol-Tested On Job

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Citing the safety of customers and the general public, the State of Rhode Island Bureau of Business Regulation has announced new regulations for RI employees who serves alcohol to the public.

In an announcement likely to shake up Rhode Island’s hospitality industry, Liz Tanner, Director of the Rhode Island Bureau of Business Regulation has announced sweeping new regulations for employees who serve alcohol to the public. Bartenders, servers and retail liquor store emploeyees will now be subject to a battery of tests to ensure their sobriety and clear state of mind when they are in a situation to determine who and who will not be served. Anyone in the industry who serves alcohol to the public (or has been TIPS-certified) in Rhode Island is now subject to random drug testing as well as breathalyzer tests at the start, middle and end of their shifts.

“It’s a public safety issue,” said Tanner, in an statement released to the public on Friday afternoon. She then went on to explain that those who serve alcohol have to be completely sober in the situation in order to be able to judge if any of their customers are at risk of being overserved. “We can’t have people who abuse alcohol, marijuana or other drugs like cocaine or MDMA making decisions about whether someone should be able to order another drink.”

Urinalysis and Breathalyzer Testing

Rhode Island Bartender Server Breathalyzer RegulationAs of April 1, all new restaurant employees will be subject to urinalysis screening to determine whether they’ve used alcohol or recreational drugs. Anyone who pops positive will be disqualified from applying to any positions that serve alcohol for the next five years. All current employees will be subject to random urinalysis testing and are subject to breathalyzer tests when they punch in at the start of their shift, when they punch out and at a random point mid-shift, determined by a Liquor Board computer that will be integrated with their cash register.

When asked about this new testing regiment, a Newport bartender who wished to remain anonymous replied, “This is crazy. I’m going to have to go get a medical marijuana card from my buddy’s doctor on Monday.”

Unfortunately, the new regulation doesn’t actually allow an exemption for medical marijuana users. When asked about this possible means to avoid the harsher end of the new regulations, a Bureau of Business Regulation representative replied, “While Rhode Island allows medical marijuana users to avoid prosecution for their use of a highly regulated substance, that doesn’t mean that we’d allow emergency personnel to show up stoned to work. Those who serve intoxicating beverages are under a similar obligation to the public.”

Penalties for Businesses

As mentioned above, if a potential hire pops positive for drugs or alcohol when they apply for a job serving alcohol, they’ll be banned from any such position for the next five years. If a current employee pops positive on a breathalyzer, they’ll be automatically suspended for two weeks. If they pop positive again, the business will be subject to a $5000 fine and a loss of license for five days.

How are bartenders supposed to test their cocktails for taste? “Perhaps they can come in on their off days and practice. Or do it at home. Whichever. It’s not our problem.” This new tack for the agency makes it look like customer satisfaction will no longer be the priority for Rhode Island businesses.

“We look at this as an opportunity for the hospitality industry to clean house. For too long, it has enabled substance abusers far too much leeway. How many bartenders do you know who haven’t had a DUI or drug conviction?” added one of the regulators.

When we asked where the impetus for these seemingly draconian rules were coming from, the Blast was told “These regulations have seen great success in states like Utah and Indiana. We’re looking to replicate their success.

Regulations are going to get even tighter…


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