Motorists arrested for drunken driving in Prince George's County will be asked to say where they were served their last alcoholic beverage and the names of those bars and restaurants will be referred to the county's liquor licensing board under a program Maryland state police will launch early next month, officials announced yesterday.
"This is all part of our plan to patrol the roads as vigorously as we can," said Capt. James Harvey, who commands three state police barracks in Prince George's and Montgomery counties. Harvey ordered the so-called "bar check" policy for the College Park and Forestville police barracks in Prince George's after the program was tested last year in Anne Arundel County.
Maryland state police say the program is designed to enhance local authorities' ability to enforce state laws prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving alchoholic drinks to patrons who are visibly drunk.
Harvey said he excluded Montgomery County because of the already heavy workload on troopers at the Rockville barracks and the success of the county's own periodic roadblocks to catch drunken drivers.
Under the "bar check" plan, which Harvey said will take effect by the first week of September, the 60 state police troopers who patrol the beltway, Interstate 95, Rtes. 1 and 50 and other major traffic arteries in Prince George's will ask "visibly drunken" motorists where they were drinking 30 minutes prior to their arrest, Harvey said. Drivers will not be legally required to answer the question, he said.
State police will also write to or visit the bar or restaurant named by the motorist and notify the proprietor of the incident, Harvey added. "State police have never been ones to go around and check on people drinking in bars," said Harvey. "We are working hand in hand with tavern owners and restaurants to make sure this policy works smoothly."
Not all restaurateurs, however, endorse the plan. "It stinks," declared Burk (Bucky) Motley Jr., a co-owner of Jaspers, a popular restaurant and nightclub in Greenbelt.
"My bartenders and waiters and waitresses have strict, strict instructions to notify management when they think somebody has had too much to drink," said Motley, whose nightspot may attract 2,000 people on a busy evening. "No matter how hard we try, though, somebody is probably going to walk out of our door drunk. It's humanly impossible to catch every single one."
Motley, 41, said the state police plan will place an unfair burden on bar and restaurant owners. "The burden of responsibility should be placed on the driver. I don't have the resources to cure every single person's drinking problem."
Harvey stressed that state police will make no recommendations to local officials when reporting the names of restaurants to the licence commissioners. "Any action is left up to the locality," Harvey said.
Patricia A. Hincken, the administrator of the license commissioners board, said board Chairman Robert S. Miller informed state police that the new policy "would be more than welcome."