A program that promotes designated drivers and urges bartenders and servers to cut off anyone who has had too much to drink drew staff from across the Cape Region to the Baycenter in Dewey Beach May 20.
For the second straight year bartenders and servers from Delaware's beach towns will take part in the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers.
The HERO campaign offers education to local restaurant and bar staff about responsible alcohol service and promotes the use of designated drivers.
“We are excited here in Dewey to take a proactive approach to any concerns regarding drinking and driving, under-age consumption, and service of alcohol in our incredibly fun town,” said Steve Montgomery, owner of the Starboard Restaurant in Dewey and the person behind bringing the program to Delaware.
Bill Elliot, founder of the campaign, said it isn't based on anti-drinking, but instead encourages common sense and responsibility, with the goal of preventing drunk driving tragedies. By participating, restaurants and bars agree to distribute HERO Campaign wristbands and free nonalcoholic beverages to anyone who identifies themselves as a designated driver.
“Hats off for all the work done last summer,” said Elliot to the crowd.
Elliot started the program in 2001 after his son, John, was killed in a car crash in July 2000.
Elliot showed a brief video of his son while he was still at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Dressed in his formal whites, the young man spoke of the exciting challenges that he faced in the coming months and how ideas taught at the academy would help him succeed in life.
Then there was the call at 4 a.m. that every parent dreads, said Elliot.
The program, Elliot said, is what John would have wanted us to do. It's about looking to change behaviors, he said. “Having a good time and being safe are compatible.”
Carrie Lieshman, Delaware Restaurant Association president, attended the program and estimated nearly 80 restaurants are participating. She has two teenagers and said the campaign is very near and dear to her heart.
“Watching that video doesn't get any easier,” she said.
In addition to learning about the HERO campaign, attendees of the event got a refresher about not serving people already intoxicated and underage drinking from Lt. Kevin Jones from the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacoo Enforcement, and fire prevention and evacuation preparedness from State Fire Marshal's Office Chief Deputy Harry Miller.
The event ended with Dewey Beach Lt. Bill Hocker asking the attendees to do their part to ensure patrons leave in good condition. It's OK to tell them they've had too much to drink, he said.
“Dewey Beach isn't for everyone,” he said. “I've patted them on the back and told them before, 'It's OK, you overdosed on fun tonight.'”
The campaign starts on Memorial Day weekend and will run through the summer season.