The College Alcohol Responsibility Program

Underage and excessive drinking are especially severe among college students, harming those who abuse alcohol, impacting the higher education experience for all students and detracting from the quality of life for residents of the host community. The College Alcohol Responsibility Program (ARP) is the leading evidence-based approach to improve compliance with laws and policies regarding alcohol sales and use in college communities, and to enhance cooperation among public, college and hospitality and alcohol industry stakeholders.

A System to Enhance Alcohol Responsibility

The College Alcohol Responsibility Program (ARP) is a systems approach to compliance with alcohol sales laws and the adoption of responsible retailing practices. In all states, laws stipulate what an alcohol beverage licensee may not do, such as sell or serve alcohol to a minor or an individual who is clearly impaired, but how to achieve compliance is left to individual licensees. National and regional chains have the resources to train and supervise staff but for independently-owned and operated establishments, such resources are unavailable. In college communities, with high turnover every year of both staff and customers, the difficulty of achieving community-wide responsible retailing is even greater.

The College ARP regards all the licensees as part of a single system. The College ARP promotes responsible retailing resources and practices for all licensees within the community − monitoring licensee conduct; providing resources for the clerks, servers and bartenders who sell or serve alcohol; and communicating quarterly with licensees, town and college officials on community-wide performance measures and matters of interest in supporting safe and lawful alcohol sales/service and use.

The College ARP combines four individual strategies for enhanced responsible retailing that were developed by RRForum under federal research awards from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Click each of the Strategy Tabs below to expand content.

Strategy #1: Reducing Underage Access to Commercial Alcohol

Challenge:

Reducing access to commercial sources of beverage alcohol for those under age 21 is central to an overall strategy for reducing the societal and personal costs of underage drinking. Reducing underage sales has been recommended by the Institute of Medicine, the Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Surgeon General.

Response:

21 Matters™ − RRForum’s underage sales prevention program − helps alcohol retailers and serving establishments improve age-verification and underage sales refusal. Developed by RRForum under a research award from the National Institutes of Health, 21 Matters™ provides alcohol beverage licensees with periodic feedback on actual staff ID-checking conduct as observed by young, legal age “mystery shoppers” who ask to buy or be served an alcoholic beverage.

Since mystery shoppers are of legal age, there is no harm or risk involved for staff or the establishment – just valuable information on actual staff conduct. Since these visits are also “teachable moments,” 21 Matters™ includes information on responsible retailing Best Practices when it distributes the mystery shop reports. 21 Matters™ helps licensees prepare for compliance checks and helps the community manager underage sales compliance. Click here for more information on 21 Matters™.

Strategy #2: Addressing Over-consumption and Over-service

Challenge:

College students drink more frequently and more heavily than other young adults and drinking in college on-premises establishments has been associated with heavy consumption and a range of problems including assault, fighting, risky sex, and drinking and driving. Servers and bartenders are an important first line of prevention for reducing over-service to patrons as well as the incidence of DWI.

Response:

S-STOP™ − Stop Service to Obviously-impaired Patrons – helps licensees and their staff to recognize and refuse service to impaired customers. “Pseudo-Intoxicated” Mystery Shoppers (P-IMS) – trained actors exhibiting signs of obvious impairment – enter bars, clubs and restaurants asking to be served a drink while exhibiting obvious signs of intoxication that staff would regularly encounter: slurred speech, imbalance, loss of concentration and confusion, etc. Owner-operators and managers receive confidential feedback on whether staff refused, or was willing to served, an obviously-impaired patron. All serving establishments, whether visited or not, receive a report of aggregate over-service rates in the community and a link to our S-STOP™ website for a brief video that shows how the P-IMS behaved during their inspections and demonstrates over-service refusal skills for staff. Click here for more information on S-STOP™.

Strategy #3: Developing Community Responsible Retailing Resources

Challenge:

Neither state alcohol regulations nor local laws stipulate what actions licensees should take after they refuse sales or service to a customer who is underage or obviously impaired.

Response:

The College ARP develops a community-specific guidance, drawing upon local law enforcement and other stakeholders, that provides licensees with guidance on:

  • What should staff do with an ID they suspect is fake ID?
  • What should staff do when they suspect that an adult who purchased alcohol is furnishing it so someone under age 21 (a “3rd-party sale”)?
  • What safe ride home services are available for a patron who may be impaired?
  • When and how should law enforcement be contacted?

Other issues identified by local stakeholders may also be addressed.

Strategy #4: Enhancing communication and collaboration among public – private stakeholders

Challenge:

Most college communities are high alcohol enforcement areas with dedicated alcohol law enforcement resources. One unintended consequence of intense enforcement, however, is that some licensees wonder why, after repeatedly passing compliance checks, they continue to be inspected with such frequency. Licensees that are cited for violations may feel that the actions of local police or licensing commissions may be overly aggressive and harsh. Fraught relationship between public agencies and (parts of) the licensee community are common.

Response:

Collaboration among public – private stakeholders is critical to effective alcohol responsibility. College communities typically have coalitions of public health and safety stakeholders from both the college and the host community and business representatives that help RRForum to adapt the College ARP to local laws and norms.  Since licensees have close ties with their industry partners, and often rely upon them for responsible retailing materials and training, beer and wine-spirits distributors are included in this collaboration.

Strategy #1
Strategy #1: Reducing Underage Access to Commercial Alcohol

Challenge:

Reducing access to commercial sources of beverage alcohol for those under age 21 is central to an overall strategy for reducing the societal and personal costs of underage drinking. Reducing underage sales has been recommended by the Institute of Medicine, the Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Surgeon General.

Response:

21 Matters™ − RRForum’s underage sales prevention program − helps alcohol retailers and serving establishments improve age-verification and underage sales refusal. Developed by RRForum under a research award from the National Institutes of Health, 21 Matters™ provides alcohol beverage licensees with periodic feedback on actual staff ID-checking conduct as observed by young, legal age “mystery shoppers” who ask to buy or be served an alcoholic beverage.

Since mystery shoppers are of legal age, there is no harm or risk involved for staff or the establishment – just valuable information on actual staff conduct. Since these visits are also “teachable moments,” 21 Matters™ includes information on responsible retailing Best Practices when it distributes the mystery shop reports. 21 Matters™ helps licensees prepare for compliance checks and helps the community manager underage sales compliance. Click here for more information on 21 Matters™.

Strategy #2
Strategy #2: Addressing Over-consumption and Over-service

Challenge:

College students drink more frequently and more heavily than other young adults and drinking in college on-premises establishments has been associated with heavy consumption and a range of problems including assault, fighting, risky sex, and drinking and driving. Servers and bartenders are an important first line of prevention for reducing over-service to patrons as well as the incidence of DWI.

Response:

S-STOP™ − Stop Service to Obviously-impaired Patrons – helps licensees and their staff to recognize and refuse service to impaired customers. “Pseudo-Intoxicated” Mystery Shoppers (P-IMS) – trained actors exhibiting signs of obvious impairment – enter bars, clubs and restaurants asking to be served a drink while exhibiting obvious signs of intoxication that staff would regularly encounter: slurred speech, imbalance, loss of concentration and confusion, etc. Owner-operators and managers receive confidential feedback on whether staff refused, or was willing to served, an obviously-impaired patron. All serving establishments, whether visited or not, receive a report of aggregate over-service rates in the community and a link to our S-STOP™ website for a brief video that shows how the P-IMS behaved during their inspections and demonstrates over-service refusal skills for staff. Click here for more information on S-STOP™.

Strategy #3
Strategy #3: Developing Community Responsible Retailing Resources

Challenge:

Neither state alcohol regulations nor local laws stipulate what actions licensees should take after they refuse sales or service to a customer who is underage or obviously impaired.

Response:

The College ARP develops a community-specific guidance, drawing upon local law enforcement and other stakeholders, that provides licensees with guidance on:

  • What should staff do with an ID they suspect is fake ID?
  • What should staff do when they suspect that an adult who purchased alcohol is furnishing it so someone under age 21 (a “3rd-party sale”)?
  • What safe ride home services are available for a patron who may be impaired?
  • When and how should law enforcement be contacted?

Other issues identified by local stakeholders may also be addressed.

Strategy #4
Strategy #4: Enhancing communication and collaboration among public – private stakeholders

Challenge:

Most college communities are high alcohol enforcement areas with dedicated alcohol law enforcement resources. One unintended consequence of intense enforcement, however, is that some licensees wonder why, after repeatedly passing compliance checks, they continue to be inspected with such frequency. Licensees that are cited for violations may feel that the actions of local police or licensing commissions may be overly aggressive and harsh. Fraught relationship between public agencies and (parts of) the licensee community are common.

Response:

Collaboration among public – private stakeholders is critical to effective alcohol responsibility. College communities typically have coalitions of public health and safety stakeholders from both the college and the host community and business representatives that help RRForum to adapt the College ARP to local laws and norms.  Since licensees have close ties with their industry partners, and often rely upon them for responsible retailing materials and training, beer and wine-spirits distributors are included in this collaboration.

Validating the ARP model

The College ARP was developed through a strategic alliance with the International Town & Gown Association.  Six ITGA member communities − California Polytechnic State University / San Luis Obispo / Cuesta College, CA; University of Colorado / Boulder, CO; Miami University / Oxford, OH; Oklahoma State University / Stillwater, OK; Oregon State University / Corvallis, OR; University of Massachusetts / Amherst, MA −  participated in a pilot project between late 2016 and 2017 to develop and validate the College ARP. The project validated the relevance and necessity of the four College ARP strategies. It also identified additional ways in which the College ARP can assist college communities.   Click here for the full report of the pilot project.

Costs and Benefits of the College ARP

The two cost components of a College ARP are program administration and direct field expenses, mostly mystery shop inspections. Mystery shop program costs for are related to the number of licensees. In Waltham, MA, with 25% of all 80 licensees inspected every quarter, the cost of 21 Matters™ is $4,000 (20 inspections x 4 quarters @ $50 per inspection). In larger communities, costs can be kept low by inspecting a smaller percentage of licensees.  The cost of S-STOP™ would be $1,500 – $2,500. Program administration for the College ARP is $2,500. So the cost of a comprehensive College ARP would +/- $10,000 a year.

Benefits of the College ARP:

  • Alcohol beverage licensees are better prepared to pass law enforcement compliance checks and to avoid citations and liability for underage alcohol sales and over-service
  • The adoption of Best Practices enhances the professionalism of alcohol sales and service in the community and reduces the risk of harm to customers and the general community
  • Public and private stakeholders work together in a cooperative, problem-solving approach that promotes common goals of safe, supportive college communities
  • The College ARP serves as a quality control system to measure underage sales and over-service prevention and communicate with licensees and college and community health and safety stakeholders

To inquire about an ARP, contact Maureen DeJong, Director of Field Services, at DeJong@RRForum.org.