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Bartenders in Jamestown team up with deputies to help understand when customers are too drunk

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JAMESTOWN, N.C. – A bar in Jamestown wants to prevent people from drinking and driving by training its bartenders to recognize when someone's had too much to drink.

Several bartenders and wait staff at The Deck at River Twist didn't serve customers Sunday afternoon. They poured drinks for themselves instead.

Guilford County sheriff's deputies watched them closely, counted their drinks, and checked their blood alcohol content over two hours.

The bar's owner, Wade Gabel, wanted to partner with the sheriff's office to help staff understand when a customer is getting too drunk.

"This way you get to really get a first-hand experience," Gabel said.

The staff set up different sobriety tests, including putting the staff behind the wheel of a virtual reality simulator that shows you what it looks and feels like to drive while impaired.

"It makes you realize like any impairment could actually affect what you're doing," one employee said.

Gabel also wants his staff to recognize when to cut off a customer from alcohol.

Businesses and bartenders can be held partially responsible for a drinking and driving crash or arrest.

"You got to understand as a bartender, it's not just mixing drinks and taking your tips home at the end of the night, you're on the hook for liability," Gabel said. "If you happen to serve that somebody that one drink and something terrible goes out there and happens, that's your liability. So I want them to train and know."

"I definitely think that the person coming in to the establishment hold the most responsibility," Deputy Amanda Wellendorf said. "You know, if they come in completely sober and then they drink and drink and drink and drink, that's their ultimately their decision, their choice. But there's somewhat of a responsibility on the bartender or the staff to see that that person is beginning to act like they're way too impaired."

Sheriff's deputies say customers need to take charge of their own drinking, just like these bartenders trained to do.

The sheriff's office and state offer other training programs for businesses, including the Responsible Alcohol Sellers Program. It also goes over how to spot someone who's too drunk, how to spot fake IDs, and how to avoid selling to underage drinkers.