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Editorial: Craft fests must focus on DWI

Editorial: Craft fests must focus on DWI

Editorial: Craft fests must focus on DWI
Photographer: Shutterstock

These events sound charming. And many are.

Craft beer festivals. Tavern nights. Cider nights. Whiskey nights. Winery tours. Beer summits (as if they’re holding it at Camp David). Ale trails.

Come sample hundreds of exotic beverages for a modest entry fee and get a free souvenir glass.

You can practically picture Samuel Adams himself raising a pint with you.

As these types of events grow in number and popularity with the expansion of the craft industry in New York, patrons and organizers need to remember that what these events involve is alcohol. Lots of it.

Some of these events involve visiting multiple locations. And if people aren’t walking from one to the other, they’re hopping in their cars.

Innocently sipping a few dozen samples of craft brew over a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon can easily make one too drunk to drive just as effectively as a night on the town at local bars.

Yes, it’s the responsibility of the individual driver and their companions to regulate their own alcohol consumption. 

But it’s also the responsibility of the organizers of these events to remind their customers about the dangers of overindulging and to provide them with the means to find a safe ride home.

Some of these craft beverages contain a lot more alcohol than the light beer you buy at the grocery store.

If the sellers of these products at craft fairs and tavern nights don’t clearly display the alcohol level, amateur drinkers might overindulge without realizing it.

A CNBC report cited a report that found that the amount of beers released with more than 6.5 percent alcohol by volume had increased by 319 percent in North America from 2011 to 2014, with 46 percent of new beer releases falling into this category. The average alcohol content of craft beer is about 5.9 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Some craft beers have an ABV of more than 8, with some topping out at 20. The ABV for a Coors Light is 4.2 percent. 

Event organizers should strongly emphasize in their advertising the dangers of consuming too much alcohol and the importance of bringing along designated drivers or hiring a professional driver. 

Some events around the country have recognized this and will partner with local taxi companies or ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber to have a ready number of vehicles available nearby to drive people home.

Government and chamber organizations that promote these events as economic development have a particular obligation to emphasize the drunk-driving angle as part of the promotions they endorse. 

We’re all for free enterprise and encouraging the growth of businesses to suit the new interests of the public. But the people’s safety must come first -- the patrons of these events, and the drivers and pedestrians they might encounter on the way.

Too many operators of alcohol-related events do plenty to draw customers out of their homes, but do too little to make sure they get back home safely.

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