Say cheers to responsible drinking

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald announced Tuesday, Nov. 21, that his department wants people to be safe and sober over the busy Thanksgiving weekend.

He said that with the long holiday weekend about to start, the night before Thanksgiving is often one of the biggest drinking days of the year.

Fitzgerald asked county residents to practice good sense and take precautions to be sure that juveniles don’t have access to alcohol.

"Older siblings and college-age friends are home for the holidays,” Fitzgerald said. "Refrigerators are stocked with alcohol for family parties, making alcohol available when adults are often preoccupied with holiday preparations and gatherings.”

Other factors:

Time—School is out and teens have plenty of down time to hang out and engage in risky behavior.

Adult modeling—Adult role models often use the sport of hunting as another drinking opportunity or even time for the first drink initiation.

"This holiday season, we all have the opportunity to establish strong family traditions that are not built around drinking, with a few simple steps,” Fitzgerald said.

"First, take time to divert teen alcohol use by planning and promoting non- alcoholic youth activities.

"Second, consider where the alcohol is stocked in the home and ensure it is locked up and monitored to reduce easy access.

"Finally, be a positive role model and limit your own alcohol intake.”

In the meantime, the Barron County Community Coalition and the Barron County Sheriff’s Department have collaborated to help address the recent increase in underage drinking parties in our community.

“Underage drinking numbers have been steadily declining since 2009, but recently we have seen an unfortunate increase in underage alcohol parties across the County,” the sheriff said.

The coalition also addresses the issue with alcohol compliance checks at area liquor retailers, using youth volunteers to be sure that underage customers can't get alcohol at bars, liquor stores and convenience stores, according to Jeanine Schultz, Public Health Specialist.

Those who fail compliance checks may be offered the option of attending Safe Serve, an alternative sanction class created in partnership with Barron County Restorative Justice Programs. It offers participants the option of attending a two hour program focused on responsible beverage service and restorative practices, to prevent sales to underage youth. In exchange the offender receives a reduction in their fine.

The fines can be further reduced if additional employees from the establishment attend as well, Schultz added.