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Neenah city officials considers sober server ordinance

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NEENAH, WI (WTAQ) - A sober server ordinance is under consideration in the city of Neenah.

Police believe making it illegal for bartenders to drink while on the job would make the city safer.

But not everyone is on the same page.

At Cranky Pat's in Neenah, the bartenders are not allowed to drink on the job.

"We have had sober bartenders for over eight years, but I would certainly see that in some circumstances you'd want the bartenders to be able to have a social drink with customers," owner David Earle tells FOX 11.

But Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson told FOX 11 his department brought the idea to the city's Public Services and Safety committee. He said it would make officers' jobs easier, because sometimes situations at taverns can get out of hand. For example fights or underage drinking.

"The likelihood of that happening goes up significantly if the bartender himself or herself is intoxicated," explained Wilkinson.

Under the ordinance, bartenders would need a .04 blood alcohol content or lower to work and could not consume on the clock.

Wilkinson told FOX 11 the change could work well in Neenah.

"We're a community that doesn't allow alcohol consumption in the parks, we don't allow the gas stations to serve alcohol.  That's pretty unique, but that's part of what Neenah is," said Wilkinson.

But before the conversation goes any further, the police department is asking for the public's opinions on social media.

"I think it's fair that we try to have some kind of discussion or some kind of measure to find out how people feel," explained Wilkinson.

The state tavern league told FOX 11 there are already enough laws on the books to deal with problems at individual bars.

"So go and pass an ordinance that would blanket every bar in the city of Neenah, we think that's unnecessary.  For the government to say, 'no, we want you to do it our way,' we don't like that idea," explained Pete Madland, executive director of the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

Neenah's Public Services and Safety Committee will review the proposed ordinance again later this month.

Chief Wilkinson said La Crosse has an ordinance like it on the books -- but police have only given out a handful of citations.

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