Open-a-Bar.comArticles What effect will the NTSB recommendation to lower the BAC have on Bars and Restaurants? Articles

What effect will the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendation to lower the Legal Driving Blood Alcohol Content Limit (BAC) actually have on Bars, Pubs, Restaurants and Nightclubs?

What effect will the NTSB recommendation to lower the BAC have on Bars and Restaurants? The easy answer is: We're not sure, but we can speculate.

While we strongly support any and all efforts to eliminate drunken driving, the sad reality is, that, short of Prohibition, the elimination of free will and mandatory ignition interlock controls for all automobiles, humanity may never quite experience a complete grip on the problem. But there's always hope. And good intentions.

Speaking of good intentions, the National Transportation Safety Board has recently recommended all 50 States in the Union lower the current legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for driving from .08% to .05%. Since the 1980's, strong lobbies from notable organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) and other groups have steadily made their impact on legislators and the public at large, eventually nudging the legal BAC down to its current .08% limit.

Admittedly, those efforts have had a major impact in the reduction of alcohol related fatalities and injuries from intoxicated driving, but unfortunately the measures have had some negative effects on alcohol-related businesses in the respect that responsible citizenry have wisely chosen to stay sober when the server suggest the next round. We, as an Industry, have weathered many changes over the years, but legislative battles lost that limit our ability to accommodate all patrons fairly, equally and responsibly are the jagged little pill we must swallow to keep our doors open and good people entertained and employed.

Operators have increasingly turned to "quality-of-product" and "quality-of-service" programs to supplement waning alcohol sales that, without their usually high profit margins and quantities, can make the difference between a successful bar enterprise and a for sale sign in the window.

So what can we expect to see from this latest round of prodding from the NTSB?

Some PROS might be:

• We, as a society, will deter more alcohol-related fatalities and accidents on the nation's roadways. A definite PLUS in every way.

• We, as operators of food and beverage establishments, can expect our clientele to become more educated and sophisticated, demanding higher-quality, more eccentric and hard-to-get products served with class by knowledgeable service staff. Palettes will elevate and restaurateurs will meet that demand.

• Food programs at bars and pubs will expand and become more sophisticated to offset alcohol consumption. Cigars may also see a revival once more as pubs and clubs try to keep guests longer.

• Restaurants and Bars may choose to expand on their wine lists, cellars and beer takeout programs anticipating diners will elect to cork their bottle and go after dining.

• Expect to see a sharp rise in "at home consumption" and entertaining.

• Bars, Nightclubs and Restaurants will undoubtedly focus on marketing and promotion in order to connect with new business and solidify their regular patron base. Expect to see a shift to more entertainment, sports and theme-driven events to increase the duration of stay for bar and restaurant patrons.

• Industry segments such as public transportation, taxis and drivers for hire as well as manufacturers of ignition interlock devices, breathalyzers and abatement devices would reasonably stand to benefit from presumed increases in demand as more and more consumers choose to get to and from establishments safely. Home improvement contractors may take on more business as people choose to consume and entertain at home in style.

• We would join 100+ other countries around the world with the same BAC. Expectations when traveling to and from the United States for patrons who chose to drink and potentially operate a motor vehicle will level out. We might just get a little international respect for that.

Okay, that's great! But what about some CONS?

• We can logically forecast we will see a significant decrease in customer traffic and patron counts, as well the decrease in duration of stay figures and lower check averages per guest as guests refuse a second or even third round of drinks.

• Certain venues may take more of a hit than others. A sports bar may not see a huge impact right away as guests typically congregate in those establishments in the interest of watching games. The time those games take place will not change, therefore not significantly altering duration of guest stay. By comparison, a dance club on the outskirts of town may see a sharper decline in business, especially on off nights, as people may elect to bag the trip opting instead to go to a neighborhood bar they can walk to or take a cheap taxi home from. Resorts may not see big foot-traffic changes.

• Alcohol costs may rise as suppliers cope with a reduction in demand from the on-premise sector. However, it should be noted that distributorships would likely see increased sales from the "at-home consumption" segment.

• The dining dynamic could make unprecedented shifts as more guests elect to drink less or stop drinking altogether with dinner. The historically responsible paradigm of "drinks with dinner" may be threatened as responsible drinkers play it safer.

• Implementation of the NTSB's recommendation to lower the BAC may take the focus off of the restaurant industry's long held general position that education, treatment, enforcement, regulation of vehicles and new technology as well as the proper prosecution and levying of penalties for repeat offenders. These things are examples of what IS working and they may not be getting enough credit, especially next to this bombshell announcement. Opponents of the move are fearful of potentially misallocated and/or misdirected resources that will begin to more aggressively target responsible drinkers instead of cracking down on repeat offenders and will certainly diminish the effectiveness of other steps currently being used against drinking and driving. Arguments have been lodged that the majority of accidents occurring on American roadways are caused by impaired drivers with a BAC level of .16% and above.

No matter which is your side of the aisle, the NTSB will not be "un-recommending" anything. They have a wide-array of statistics supporting their position. So, the topic is on the table and will likely be a very hotly debated issue. Some are saying this recommendation is being perpetuated out of a sincere concern for treating a public epidemic and saving countless lives and is long overdue. On the other end of the spectrum, opponents have highlighted that it is a poorly thought-through scheme with greedy financial implications for certain individuals and groups and that it will no better serve or save than the existing laws on the books. Furthermore, it is suggested that many resources will be wasted targeting law-abiding, responsible drinkers rather than targeting the worst of the offenders and the burdensome financial implications that implies.

With solutions ranging from implementation to an automotive industry-wide installation of ignition interlock devices in all new vehicles plus recent decisions involving blood alcohol testing splitting the U.S. Supreme Court, this will be no walk in the park.

Even though conducting business at the tightest margins and following all responsible alcohol management protocols, operators would still be strongly advised to begin planning their next move in the event of an implementation of the recommendation, because, as we all know, no matter how it comes down, the show must go on, responsibly and safely. STRONGLY advocates responsible drinking and safe driving by people of legal drinking age who choose to consume beverage alcohol. NEVER drink and drive. Always get a safe ride from a taxi or an unimpaired designated driver if you have been drinking. If you believe you, a friend or a family member may have a drinking problem, we encourage you to seek professional medical help. You can find more links and information about how and where to get help by clicking this link. Alcohol is a drug that is known to have many adverse and harmful effects on the human body and affects everyone differently. Always enjoy it RESPONSIBLY.

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