It was a household routine.
“Say ‘when,’” Mom would instruct as she poured out milk or orange juice. And we’d promptly oblige when we’d had our fill.
It’s a word some of us can’t quite pull up these days, even when we really need to. Especially then.
You no doubt know about the dark side of Naperville after dark. Sure, there’s a vibrant and robust night vibe to be found downtown, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. The bars and restaurants here do a superb job of being hospitable in the hospitality business.
It’s the yang to that yin that has become a big problem.
City Council members Tuesday will ponder several proposed restrictions on the heavily drinking night life in the city core that’s been implicated in at least three deaths and a ton of petty crime over the past 3 1/2 years. They’ll consider, among other things, whether to ban patrons from coming into a bar less than an hour before closing time, in an effort to squelch the bar-hopping that tops off a late-night buzz; whether a 24-ounce beer, a 3-ounce shot or a 6-ounce glass of wine is just too much of a good thing; and whether bouncers ought to undergo the four-hour Beverage Alcoholic Sellers and Servers Education Training (BASSET) class now required for servers and those who sell booze to go. A vote is supposed to take place later in the month.
The council, and most of the other good folks who live here, are ready to say it loud and clear: enough. Or if you prefer, when.
Officials have gone back and forth a little bit over whether the problem is supply or demand. I think the blame lies where truth almost always is to be found: somewhere in the middle.
Sure, those of us who choose to imbibe need to know when we’ve had our fill. And those of us who serve up the refreshments have to pick up where the former leave off, if detection of that limit somehow eludes them.
So it was mostly out of curiosity that I went to the most recent BASSET training a couple of Mondays ago at the Municipal Center.
Most of my classmates — employees of Francesca’s, Maggiano’s, Hugo’s, Bar Louie, Wise Boxer and Walmart, among others — were easily young enough to be my kids. Ouch. But we were all plenty old enough to learn how to say when, when those demanding another drink can’t or won’t.
Those four hours went by pretty fast. Although the group of just under three dozen of us seemed like a good-sized class to me, Det. Mark English, the city’s liquor liaison who’s conducted the training about 150 times over the past eight years, told me later that about 60 usually show up. Lynn Zilinsky from the city’s clerk’s office, who assists English at the sessions, said 6,858 have completed the certification since 2006.
It’s certainly stuff worth knowing, particularly for those on the supply side.
English covered a wide range of material. He addressed the fake $100 bills that made their way to Walmart earlier this month. He talked about how craft beers typically pack a much more powerful punch than your basic Miller Lite. He told his students about how the most common citation given out to bars is an excess of fruit flies found in the bottom of a bottle of liquor — you can’t have more than 10 in there.
“I’ve never been in a place, personally, that didn’t have fruit flies,” English said.
He described Freedomflask, a thing you can fill up and strap around your waist so you can slip into the bathroom and do a shot or two, via a spigot tucked handily just inside the fly on your jeans.
“It’s comfortable to wear and pays for itself after the first use,” the gadget’s website gushes.
It certainly lends whole new meaning to tying one on.
English also got into a little physiology, explaining how overweight people get hammered faster, because fat doesn’t absorb alcohol so it shoots straight into their systems. He touched on the topic of toxicity, on how alcohol affects the joints and organs and how the liver can only process one drink per hour; beyond that point, people are starting to get drunk. Nausea is definitely a red flag.
“If somebody’s throwing up, I recommend calling an ambulance,” English said, adding that restaurant employees sometimes write it off to something the customer ate. “Alcohol’s a poison to your body … As soon as it enters your body, your liver gets the message, ‘Get rid of it.’”
English offered tips on knowing when somebody shouldn’t have another, stressing that service often must slow down as the night wears on, and that sometimes you have to reach a point where you say when.
“If you’re afraid to cut people off, you shouldn’t be serving,” he said. “You’re delivering a drug to people.”
He reminded the class that having a couple of belts at home before heading out, the cost-saving measure known as pregaming, is a real thing.
“Just remember, everyone pre-parties, so you have to watch it,” English said, adding that sometimes the pre-partying has happened in another nearby public venue. “Ribfest is hard, because people come at 7 o’clock and they’ve been drinking all day. Last Fling is the same thing.”
And of course, he went into the public safety piece, relating the tale of a drunk driver clocked at 100 mph who told police that he thought he was doing 42. The story of the guy who had passed out face-down in his mashed potatoes at a Brown’s Chicken and when revived by an officer, replied with an oft-used imperative expletive.
The account of a horrible accident that happened years ago — actually, on the same day my now young-adult caboose turned 5 — hit especially close to home. It happened down on the Outer Banks, when 30-year-old Melissa Lynn Marvin downed two 16-ounce margaritas and three shots of 100-proof schnapps before stumbling into her car, driving away and running a red light, smashing into another car and killing four teenaged girls. A woman who looks in video clips like she could be any nice young suburbanite, Marvin remains in jail 15 years later, her appeal having failed.
“I think I’ve given you enough tools to do your job,” English said, as the class neared its end. “Just cut people off.”Tags: bars, City Council, downtown Naperville