Bartenders here say new law may serve as wake-up call for drinkers

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Lou Thwaits owns The Tavern on Brookfield Street with her sister, Beverly Cole.
Like for many bar and restaurant owners, patrons drinking and driving is a regular concern for Thwaits.
And the issue has perhaps become a topic of increased discussion since the state introduced new drunk-driving laws on Tuesday.
The new laws lowered the legal driving blood alcohol level from 0.10 to 0.08, and fines and punishments have been increased for those convicted of drunk-driving.
But in the 23 years Thwaits has been at The Tavern, she has seen people change their attitude in regard to drinking and driving.
She said groups visiting her place often have designated drivers and are discouraged from drinking and driving because they have heard of friends being pulled over and having to pay hefty fines, as well as other consequences.
Especially younger people seem to be more careful of drinking and driving these days, she said.
Thwaits doesn't think the new laws will get to the root of what she thinks is the problem, which is making sure police apprehend those who drink too much and drive on a regular basis.
She does, however, think that the new laws will have some effect.
Mike Jasper, 44, of Niles was at the Tavern Thursday afternoon.
He has followed the debate regarding the new laws and doesn't agree entirely with them being introduced here.
Jasper, however, isn't completely against the new laws.
But he has one concern.
Lucy Vales is the Eagles Lodge club manager, which is a private establishment in downtown Niles that caters mainly for people between the age of 40 and 60 years old.
Vales said she and her bar staff do keep an eye on their patrons. If they think an individual has had too much to drink, the establishment has designated drivers that take people home, she said.
Vales thinks the new laws are going to make people stop and think a little bit before getting behind the wheel after a few drinks.
She also thinks it might change some people's lifestyles and serve as a wake-up call of the possible consequences of being convicted of drunk-driving.
Vales, however, does think the fines related to drunk-driving offenses are terrible. "But I wouldn't want to get one," she said.

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