WMU News

Forum tests ability of minors to buy alcohol

June 6, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Kalamazoo County business owners will soon get a little help verifying that their clerks are not selling alcohol to minors.

The Responsible Hospitality Forum of Kalamazoo will be doing random compliance checks around the county this summer as a way of encouraging business owners to review their policies and procedures related to the sale of age-restricted products, particularly alcohol. The program will involve sending 21-year-old students into various establishments to see if proper identification is required prior to purchasing alcohol.

The Responsible Hospitality Forum is a community coalition of business representatives, law enforcement personnel, students and higher education staff members. It is the continuation of an initiative launched in 2001 by the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention at Western Michigan University.

The organization aims to significantly reduce the level of alcohol-related problems in Kalamazoo County by promoting social change, maximizing the use of available resources, and improving communication among students, businesses owners and other community members. The compliance check program is being made possible through a grant from the Michigan Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking.

Scott Suryan, interim president of the forum and owner of the 7-Eleven food store on West Michigan Avenue, says the forum currently is focusing its efforts on reducing the ability of minors to obtain age-restricted products. Suryan emphasizes that the organization's members have voluntarily chosen to conduct compliance checks and will keep the results of individual businesses absolutely confidential.

"The goal of this project isn't to be punitive. We're not targeting any particular businesses or employees," he says. "Business owners participating in the Responsible Hospitality Forum have made a clear commitment to addressing the distribution of age-restricted products among those not of legal age, and the compliance checks are one way of meeting that commitment."

According to Scott Kerby, coordinator of the Responsible Hospitality Forum and a WMU doctoral student, each check will follow an established procedure that has been developed through consultation with law enforcement personnel. Checks of randomly selected businesses will be done once a month for three months.

"After a check is completed, we'll notify business owners by both letter and telephone," Kerby says. "Business managers will be invited to meet with Responsible Hospitality Forum members to process the visit and business owners will be invited to join the Responsible Hospitality Forum."

Kerby adds that the program's overall results will be collated after the three months and released, in the form of percentages only, to the local media.

For more information about the compliance check program or the Responsible Hospitality Forum, contact Scott Kerby at (269) 387-2717 or <kerbys@groupwise.wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu


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