Narragansett liquor stores, bars sign on to alcohol safety measures

By Annie-Laurie Hogan
Published: Friday, October 21, 2005

10-21-05 - About 20 Narragansett liquor stores, bars and restaurants signed an agreement with the University of Rhode Island's Common Ground campaign to promote responsible alcohol services and sales.

"The businesses have been very responsive," Frances Cohen, dean of students and director of Common Ground, said.

The Cooperating Tavern Agreement requires participants to post a sign indicating that their establishment is a "member in good standing of the RhodeMap to Safety's Cooperating Tavern Program." It also requires employees to attend training by the Narragansett Police Department on ID checking.

"The liquor store owners and the bar owners in this community right now are very responsible," Cohen said. "But signing this agreement is a very public act ... so that students who are new to the community or visiting from other colleges can see that these establishments support the law and responsible beverage service."

Local liquor store and restaurant owners said the agreement would change little about their established alcohol services.

"We signed on very early in the program for the simple reason that we were already practicing responsible beverage services," Deborah Kelso, co-owner of the Coast Guard House, said. "[The agreement] did not change any practices we already had in place. This is just a formal piece of paper. There was no reason not to sign."

Liquor store owners agreed.

"We enforce the laws," Jerry Sahagian, owner of Bonnet Liquors said. "We check IDs constantly. This is our livelihood. We don't fool around with it. We do what we have to do to protect our business."

Sahagian added that the sign would show the Narragansett community that the store is in good standing. "It's good to be in tune with the rest of the community. It's good for everyone to be on the same page," he said.

"The reason I signed it was to get recognition from the town," Toni O'Neil, co-owner of O'Neil's Package Store, said. "We're doing the same job that we've been doing."

She added, "We have a sign [in the window] with the agreement. Whether or not it's going to dissuade someone with a fake ID from coming in, I doubt it. They're going to try that no matter what."

Mark Wood, psychology professor and principal investigator for Common Ground, said it is important for alcohol retailers to do things that reduce alcohol-related traffic crashes and fatalities.

"We know that that most Narragansett establishments are already doing these things, but believe that we can help them implement these practices more effectively," he said. "Also, it sends an important message that these businesses care about community safety and being good citizens."

"I think it's good for the community to get a unified message that the same rules apply on-campus as well as off-campus," Cohen added.

Common Ground is a community-based project funded by a 5-year, $3.5 million grant provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The campaign is part of URI's efforts to prevent substance abuse and related harm in the community.