Liquor Licensees Make Play It Safe Donation

OCEAN CITY — For two decades, the Play it Safe campaign has been encouraging graduates to enjoy an alcohol-free experience.  On Monday, the people who sell the alcohol in the state wrote the campaign a big check.

It might seem ironic that the Worcester County Licensed Beverage Association (WCLBA) and the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) gave a $4,000 check to a program whose main goal is to keep booze out of the hands of young people while they are in Ocean City, but WCLBA Director Charlene Carr says that the donation sends a message to the public.

“There are over 300 licensees in Worcester County and probably 280 of them are on this ten-mile stretch here in Ocean City,” said Carr. “So there is more than enough people to sell alcohol to, and we want to send the message that we support great programs like Play it Safe, which has done so many great things over the last 20 years to encourage kids to have fun without drinking.”

The WCLBA gave $2,500 to Play it Safe and the MSLBA, whose usual practice is to match donations or funding to chosen preventive programs, contributed $1,500. The check was presented during a luncheon at the Carousel on Monday and was accepted by a gracious Donna Greenwood, chairperson of the Play it Safe campaign.

“It says an awful lot about the people who are selling the alcohol that they are so concerned about it getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have it, and that they are willing to step forward and help fund steps to prevent underage drinking,” said Greenwood. “This donation will be a tremendous help in planning for next year, and in these economic times, a generous donation like this is thrilling.”

The MSLBA gave checks to several other preventive programs from other counties including two after-prom programs in Howard County and Baltimore City, but the presentation of the Play it Safe donation seemed to be the pinnacle of the afternoon.

Carr, in addition to giving praise to the many volunteers who have helped keep Play it Safe going for 20 years, noted that there are many other key factors in helping Worcester County sustain the state’s highest level of liquor license compliance.

“We created a relationship between the police department and the licensees that we wanted to be proactive rather than reactive, so we started doing these compliance checks through the State’s Attorney’s Office,” said Carr. “Our licensees have the highest level of compliance in the state, and Worcester County also has the highest percentage of deterred drinking amongst minors as well.”

Carr says that it is a requirement for all liquor licensees to send at least one employee to Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) classes, which she personally instructs, and noted that the emphasis on education has helped Worcester County enjoy such a high level of compliance.

“When I started working in restaurants in this town, no one taught me how to check an ID and we want to help our licensees educate their employees and not have to rely on scanners that are used nowadays,” said Carr. “If someone is using another person’s ID, the scanner won’t say that it’s fake, so you have to teach people what to look for, or at the very least, teach them to look at every ID carefully. Ninety-five percent of all people who go to a hearing at the Board of License Commissioners for serving a minor never ask for the ID in the first place.”

Greenwood said that she plans to use the $4,000 for next year’s campaign, which is already in the planning process. On Monday night, Greenwood went before the Mayor and City Council to ask for continued usage of free wristbands that the participants can use while they are in Ocean City and gave a synopsis of this past summer’s numbers.

The council didn’t say whether Play it Safe would continue to receive free wristbands for city bus usage, but Greenwood pleaded like she was in fear of losing them.

“We need these young graduates in the month of June in Ocean City, because without them, the town would literally be empty,” said Greenwood. “These wristbands help them save some money, and it keeps these young drivers off the streets.”