LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Setting the tone, part three
The Below was sent to The Town Council on July, 26 and copied to The Block Island Times
Dear Members of the Town Council,
I am writing this morning to follow up on last night’s meeting. I entered the meeting prepared to discuss the ways the Town and its business owners could work together to continue to target underage drinking and violations of the open container rules on Block Island. I welcomed the discussion and looked forward to sharing my action plan with you. Unfortunately, the meeting turned in an unexpected direction and we didn’t get to many of the critical issues at hand. Below is a summary of what I had planned to discuss with you and the other
business owners. I take these issues very seriously and I’m eager to demonstrate Ballard’s deep commitment to implementing prudent measures to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Block Island’s residents and visitors. In fact, I hope that I may lead the way in offering solutions that can be adopted island-wide.
I also want to thank Chief Chabot for identifying opportunities to improve Ballard’s existing procedures and, most importantly, for working with our security staff over the past week to refine our business model and strategies for preventing underage patrons from purchasing alcohol. Bill McCombe also reviewed our existing and proposed plans, and provided valuable feedback.
1. The most important new procedure we’ve implemented is a scanner-based identification inspection and marking process at our front door, which assists our bartenders and servers in recognizing if a patron is legally able to consume alcohol. This is especially important because technological advances have enabled the production of virtually undetectable false identifications, which our $3,500 scanner can now detect. Ballard’s examines and authenticates (or seizes) all identifications of patrons who appear to be under the age of 35. We attach a tightly fitting bracelet only to those patrons who prove through positive, authentic identification that they are lawfully able to consume alcohol at our facility. The newly implemented frontdoor screening process with the new scanner has already been working very well to prevent underage alcohol sales at Ballard’s. The Block Island Police have also assisted by patrolling our facility, and even arresting an underage individual who submitted a fake ID that our staff had detected. We are confident that our newly implemented identification screening process, along with law enforcement’s support, will significantly reduce underage patrons’ efforts to consume alcohol at Ballard’s.
2. We are also installing signage at our entrance in order to clearly communicate our strict identification and underage drinking policies to prospective patrons. The signs will further deter underage drinking because they will explicitly state that individuals presenting false identifications will be referred to the police.
3. We have already altered our advertising and social media presence to remove imaging of alcohol. We are also producing a video of our safety procedures that we will post on our website and social media pages, and distribute to our email list. We need your help in sharing it in the hope that it “goes viral!”
4. We now have an enhanced security team to assist with the ID checks and to patrol the facility to ensure that alcohol is only served to those who have not been over-served and are of proper age, as evidenced by their bracelets procured through our front door screening process. Our security team members are also performing random spot-checks in the facility, during which they once again inspect patrons’ identifications.
5. We hired third-party secret shoppers to make sure our team is accurately and consistently examining IDs.
6. We are now monitoring third-party apps such as Yik Yak, which encourage and promote underage drinking at bars.
7. We will continue cooler checks and alcohol confiscation at our entrance to ensure that patrons aren’t bringing in their own drinks.
8. We are strongly considering making busy days like the Fourth of July strictly 21+ with a cover charge. Anyone younger will be turned away at the door. This will not only combat the potential for underage drinking, but it will also reduce the crowd.
9. On weekends, we will have security staff posted at the beach fence between Ballard’s and the Land Trust in order to prevent circumvention of our front door screening process. In any event, our other new security measures, including 21+ identification bracelets and spot-checks, will preclude underage individuals from purchasing alcohol if they “sneak” into
Ballard’s from an abutting property. I had also anticipated talking about the open-container issue last night. While this is very difficult to enforce, there are measures that we can implement to reduce containers leaving the premises.
1. We made a pledge to reduce our plastic consumption. We switched to cans of water instead of bottles. You might mistake the cans for beer, as they are black and gold, but it’s water!
2. Our front door security guards are reminding anyone walking out with a cup that Block Island has an open container law. They are welcome to finish their drinks on our front porch, where we have large trash cans.
3. The beaches around Ballard’s continue to cause issues that need to be addressed by the Town, and we are certainly willing to assist in any way that we can. I welcome any feedback you may have about what I’ve outlined here. Please call me directly if you have any comments or suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your attention to this matter.