Driving Home Patron Safety: Some Resources

Those in the business of serving alcohol are probably already pretty well-versed in the unpleasant art of knowing when it might be time to cut a patron off. There is of course some extent to which certain laws apply; however, as a bartender, manager, or owner, at the end of the day, you really just want to do right by your fellow human beings (even when liability doesn’t necessarily come into play). What’s more, a well-earned reputation as an establishment that cares about patron safety certainly gets around. That’s why it’s always a great idea to have some resources readily available to empower your patrons to make wise decisions, getting themselves (and one another) home safely.

A Business Opportunity that Helps Others

Of course, the whole reason bar patrons take safety risks to begin with is a practical one: if you drive to the bar – but then get a ride home – you’re stuck schlepping across town the next day for your vehicle. One Sioux City college student, Jesse La Framboise, took this concern seriously and turned it into his own business, Sober Driver. The way the service works is simple: he and his two business partners ride their bikes to meet the bar patrons, taking over the task of getting both the patron and the car home in one piece – all in one trip.

When LaFramboise or one of his partners shows up, all he has to do is put his bike in the patron’s trunk, drive the client home, and then bike to his next destination. Thus, the patron gets home, and the patron’s car gets home. Most importantly, a dangerous situation is avoided. LaFramboise and his associates say they don’t even mind sticking around while customers finish their drinks. In fact, they say, they’re also game for stopping somewhere along the way home if the patron wants to get a snack (as long as they get treated to one too!)

Designated Driver Services are Widely Available

Leave it to college life to inspire practical solutions to problems created by having a bit too much to drink. Universities (along with military bases) often offer their own “designated driver” services, too. However, you don’t have to be young enough to still be getting carded to benefit from services designed to get patrons and their vehicles home safely. Amazingly, 46 states (all but Alaska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Vermont) now have a total of around 600 commercial and non-profit services listed in the National Directory of Designated Driver Services (NDDDS); such services actually exist in a number of places abroad, too. New Jersey, in fact, has services in every single county.

Nonprofit companies may charge less for the service than for-profits; tips are always appreciated. (Just as one example, one for-profit company charges a $20 flat-rate pickup fee plus $2 per mile). It’s usually not a problem if you spent all of your cash on drinks, since many of these services accept credit cards. In some locations, taxi drivers – wary of weaving, dangerous drivers on the road and eager to do their part – are listed as offering free rides back to get your car the next morning if you pay for a ride the night before.

And, of Course, There’s an App for That

The Garden State, not surprisingly – notorious among New Yorkers as the car-dependent “bridge and tunnel” crowd – was also chosen as the initial launch site for StearClear, a mobile app that helps arrange pickups. Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, and Boise made the list soon after, and the business is run as a nationwide franchise opportunity, providing the mobile app and other infrastructure, as well as handling liability, insurance, and issues of compliance, HR, tax reporting, and so on for businesses across the country. The company has begun partnering directly with bar owners, who use the iPad app to make arrangements for patrons who need it. Just when you thought you already knew all the ways technology has become so useful in the bar and restaurant industry!

Regardless of whether you prefer a high-tech solution or to simply have a hand-scrawled (and possibly wine-stained) list available to patrons at the end of the bar, being able to refer patrons to resources like these can go a long way in showing customers that you care for their safety (and the safety of all of us). It drives home the positive message that doing the right thing, in your mind, is not only everyone’s business; it’s yours.

Josh Saunders