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  • Waltham RR Forum introduces Massachusetts Alcohol Responsibility Program

    Published on July 17, 2019

    Waltham, Massachusetts – Alcohol sales and use are a dual-edged sword. Massachusetts, like every state, has its own unique alcohol sales laws and it is left to each individual license holder to take measures to ensure compliance. National chains and their franchisees typically train and supervise staff in checking IDs and refusing sales to anyone under the age of 21, to anyone intending to convey that alcohol to a minor, and to anyone already intoxicated. However, independently owned and operated establishments – the vast majority of licensees − don’t have the same resources, which leaves gaps in policy compliance and puts the community at risk.

    The Massachusetts-based non-profit research organization, the Responsible Retailing Forum(RRForum), has stepped in to introduce a new approach to alcohol responsibility: the MassachusettsAlcohol Responsibility Program. Begun in 2003 as a project at Brandeis University, RRForum has been working with national chains, state regulators and major distillers and brewers to understand why underage sales persist despite harsh penalties for both licensee and the staff member.

    Licensees that join the MA ARP will receive regular mystery shopper inspections that provide operators with confidential feedback without any risk or exposure for licensees or their staff – a strategy that RRForumresearch has proven to improve age-verification. RRForum regards each participating community as a single system, not just an aggregation of individual licensees. Individual cities and towns that participate in the MA ARP receive reports on aggregate ID-checking rates in that community. RRForum also distributes these reports to all licensees, providing an opportunity for licensing and police agencies to communicate on topical issues and areas of concern as well as their expectations for licensees.

    Underage drinkers are remarkably resourceful and quickly learn which licensees are lax in checking IDs. Heavy drinkers learn which bars and clubs serve customers who reach or pass their limits. If even a few licensees are lax, it can subvert the good efforts of the many conscientious establishments. And while theMA ABC and local police departments employ their own compliance checks (using underage decoys) to enforce the laws, even the most aggressive law enforcement program can monitor only a small fraction of transactions. The MA ARP will be overseen by a public-private partnership that includes public agencies, prevention organizations, and alcohol industry stakeholders to work together with licensees to achieve consistently high compliance with alcohol sales laws and promote responsible sales and responsibleconsumption. For the RRForum, alcohol responsibility is not simply a policy.