Amid ongoing concern about drinking problems in Huntington Beach, a group of restaurant owners has banded together to form a nonprofit to lead classes in how to serve alcohol responsibly.
Marco Perry, general manager of the Shorebreak Hotel, announced last week the formation of the Surf City Food and Beverage Marketing Assn., which would train bar and restaurant employees to identify customers who have had too much to drink and explain the legal consequences of serving intoxicated patrons.
"If people serve a drink to someone who is already drunk, and that person gets in an accident and kills someone, the person who served that last drink is liable, and so is the restaurant," Perry said.
Perry, whose hotel contains Zimzala Restaurant, wants to fight the alcohol problems that exist in Huntington but also help mend what he considers its exaggerated reputation for mayhem. He said most business owners act responsibly and that the city's drinking and DUI problems stem from a few bad apples.
"It just irritates me when people who don't know this community that well paint Huntington Beach as three blocks of drunken kids who are out of control," Perry said.
He added that he is trying to get nonprofit status from the state for his group and hopes to begin offering training courses early next year at the Shorebreak, Whole Foods Market and other locations. The courses would offer certification through TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS), an international program that teaches servers to prevent intoxication, drunk driving and underage drinking.
Joining Perry on the board of directors are Cucina Alessá owner Alessandro Pirozzi, La Brique Steak House owner Mike Franco, Mama's on 39 owner Pete Truxaw and Whole Foods store team leader Patrick Cox.
While the Huntington Beach Police Department has hosted alcohol-serving classes for years, Shorebreak food and beverage director Jeff Gillis said the nonprofit's courses would differ by putting more emphasis on the legal aspects of over-serving.
It's not uncommon, he said, for a drunk customer to offer a bartender a substantial bribe for one more drink, and for the bartender to give in.
Lt. Russell Reinhart said the Police Department would be happy to partner with the nonprofit for future training courses. City Councilman Joe Carchio, who sent a letter earlier this year to downtown bars and restaurants urging them to help curb DUI problems, also plans to serve as a city liaison for Perry's association.
"I realize these are really difficult financial times, but over-pouring just to make a few dollars and putting people's lives in jeopardy is not the way to go," he said. "So I really support what he's doing, and I think he's taking a giant step to make our community a little bit safer."