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Bartenders and OPD working together to increase drinking safety

QUENTIN WINSTINE

Local bars and Oxford police are dealing with an increased number of people who have been drinking on the Square on any given night. During the fall, the party is mainly in the Grove on football game days, but for the rest of the school year, the Oxford Square is the place to go for a good time. This party atmosphere on the Square every weekend has forced bar owners, bartenders and Oxford police to evaluate the best ways to deal with people who have been drinking. Most bars on the Square ask bartenders to use their best judgment to decide if they should continue serving drinks to a customer. “If a person is obviously drunk, slurring their words or stumbling, we stop serving them,” Two Sticks bartender Kevin Hindman said. Other bartenders do not have strict rules about serving alcohol on the Square, but they are responsible for using good judgment. “There aren’t really any guidelines to deal with drunks at any bar,” said Katie Reddit, who has bartended on the Square and for casinoes. Some bartenders said that since they deal with drinking customers all night face to face, it is easy to see when someone should be “cut off.” Although bartenders can generally tell when to stop serving someone, every case is handled according to the circumstances. A few bartenders said they will calmly tell the person themselves that they will no longer be served if they have served them all night, while others said they will speak with the drunk person’s friends.   “The toughest part of ending service to customers on the Square is that some think that if you can pay for it, you can do it,” said Jesse Clemons, who has been a bartender in Oxford for three years. “Sometimes you’ll be cussed out by somebody because you stop serving them drinks.”   Clemons also said it is very rare to have a customer kicked out of a bar.   “At a bar, it is more important to make money than to kick people out,” he said. “Unless somebody is being really obnoxious, they will usually stay in the bar.”   Hindman said bouncers also play a role in dealing with drinking customers. “Some bars have bouncers who will respond quickly to take care of obnoxious behavior,” he said. “Usually bartenders will take care of it at the other places that don’t have bouncers.”   Some bars on the Square have deals with taxi services in Oxford to help take people home who would otherwise be a danger behind the wheel. If a person is really drunk and does not have a safe ride home, a cab will be called, according to Reddit.   “It’s usually encouraged by the bartender that a person doesn’t drink and drive,” Hindman said.   Every bartender will do his or her best to make sure customers get out of the bar safely, and he or she will even help secure a ride. However, once a customer is out of the bar, the bartender or owner is no longer responsible. Instead, the Oxford Police Department is responsible for making sure people are safe and don’t cause trouble. There are usually between four and eight officers on the Square for a typical weekend, but sometimes there are as many as 10 officers for game days, according to Oxford Police Chief Mike Martin.   “A drunk and disorderly fine is given to individuals who have become intoxicated to the point that they are being loud, drawing attention to themselves or even trying to get into fights,” Martin said. “If an intoxicated individual has a friend or group of friends that will help keep them under control, you lower the risk of getting a fine.”   Martin also advises that when you go out to the Square, bring friends and assign somebody as the one who will be sober enough to make sure everyone gets home safely.   “The Square is a fun place for folks, and we want to keep it a fun place,” Martin said.