Wicomico Tightens Special Event Alcohol Policies

SALISBURY – Following an internal audit of cash and alcohol handling at Wicomico County festivals, more strict policies have been put in place regarding the sampling of alcohol.

A resolution adopting the Wicomico County Festivals Cash and Alcoholic Beverage Handling Audit report came before the Wicomico County Council on Tuesday morning for approval.

The resolution states, “under County Charter, the Internal Auditor is charged with the duty to report on internal accounting controls, administrative and operating practices and procedures, and other pertinent financial and compliance matters within Wicomico County, and that the Internal Auditor has submitted a report for the County Council’s consideration that focuses on the policies and procedures of handling cash and alcoholic beverages at County festivals, as well as the level of compliance with those procedures and controls.”

According to Internal Auditor Steve Roser, the Office of Internal Auditor has performed an audit for county festivals, specifically the handling of cash and alcohol sales. The objective of the audit was to ensure that internal controls are in place for handling cash during festivals, evaluating compliance with those controls, assuring adequate security for persons handling the transporting of cash, and ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations for the handling of alcoholic beverages.

“We concluded internal controls of handling of cash in adherent to the control were at a level of satisfactory to its purpose. Additionally, we concluded the handling of alcohol was adequate on a three-point scale,” Roser said. “We would like to note however that management showed a robust effort to address the many issues surrounding the handling of alcohol that arose during fall of 2013 evidence by the screening of Pork in the Park Festival.”

According to the report, the findings showed some key issues that warranted discussion starting with the sampling of alcohol.

The Good Beer Festival advertised unlimited tasting of over 125 craft beers. The county and Liquor Licensing Board (LLB) set the sampling size at two to three ounces. Although it can be done, it is difficult to tap small quantities of beer directly from a keg. That is one reason, according to management, that the county went to 5-ounce glass for tasting instead of the 12-ounce glasses used in the past. LLB personnel indicated that over pouring was a problem at the Good Beer Festival on occasion but the Internal Auditor (IA) did not observe servers consuming beer in the period tested.

The county solicits and uses volunteers to serve as cashiers for purchasing beer tickets, pourers, and those responsible for checking participant identification to see if they are over 21. The personnel that were trained for checking identification were not present at the gate, and LLB indicated that there might have been problems with underage drinking as a result.

Management indicated that county personnel would be available at all pouring stations for the beer festival. Testing indicated otherwise. IA was not able to find county personnel at most of the pouring stations. IA testing indicated security presence as a satisfactory level during the festivals. One winery indicated, however, that there not enough security to handle unruly customers in some cases. IA did not observe overuse of alcohol or abusive behavior during the periods tested.

In response to the concerns, Wicomico County Recreation and Parks Director Gary Mackes asked staff to evaluate and enhance protocols to minimize exposure at the 2014 Pork in the Park held May 9-11, Good Beer to be held Oct. 11-12, and Autumn Wine Festival to be held October 18-19.

Security Supervisor of the Civic Center Rick Gardner and 13 staff members will become Training for Intervention ProcedureS (TIPS)/Technique of Alcohol Management (TAMS) certified and will manage gate security and ID Checks for all three festivals as well as Recreation, Parks and Tourism event supervisors will become certified to ensure Liquor Control Board protocols are followed.

For the Good Beer Festival, part-time staff under direct control of the department’s event staff to supervise pouring will replace outside contractors retained in the past. Also, sampling glasses will be reduced from five to three ounces and Recreation, Parks and Tourism event supervisors will ensure Liquor Control Board protocols are followed.

For Pork in the Park, part-time staff under direct control of the department’s event staff to supervise pouring and Recreation, Parks and Tourism event supervisors to ensure Liquor Control Board protocols are followed.

For the Autumn Wine Festival, the license and related protocols are the responsibility of participating wineries.

“In general, the handling of alcohol that was brought up by the LLB worked hand in glove with tourism to solve problems, and again that was evident by the Pork in the Park festival when we did the walk through,” Mackes said. “We saw evidence of the fact the people handling alcohol, the people carding individuals were certified by the proper authorities to do so, they were doing a much better job and the liquor licensing board agreed.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution.