Tips for staff of nightspots to help the tipsy

The next time you have had one too many drinks at a nightclub, don't be surprised if the bartender ropes in your friend to get you to slow down.

He may also introduce you to a regular at the club who will chat you up and distract you from knocking back a few more pints.

These are some of the tips nightspot staff can pick up from a training programme that equips them with the know-how to identify, intervene and prevent potential alcohol-related problems among customers.

The Training for Intervention Procedures (Tips) programme, which has certified more than 3.5 million participants globally so far, was launched in Singapore yesterday.

It teaches those who sell and serve alcohol how to spot and handle inebriated customers properly, to prevent the situation from spiralling into heated arguments or, worse, drunken brawls.

Tips was developed by United States-based company Health Communications, and has been taught in over 40 countries.

For a start, 12 industry professionals here have been trained and certified as Tips trainers. They are expected to train some 100 frontline staff by the end of this year.

Tips was introduced here through a joint partnership between Health Communications, Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Singapore and the Association of Bartenders and Sommeliers Singapore (ABSS).

NTUC's Employment & Employability Institute is also backing the move by subsidising half of the $140 course fee for the five-hour workshop.

Health Communications president and chief executive Adam Chafetz said: "The thing we teach the most is to establish a rapport with customers - it makes it so much easier. In 90 per cent of interventions, customers don't even know they are being intervened with."

The challenge, however, will be to get the buy-in from nightspot owners, who may feel the programme will result in staff selling less booze, hence making less money, said Ms Shannen Fong, head of corporate relations at APB Singapore.

ABSS president Michael Cheng said that, in the long run, creating a positive experience is key - if customers leave a nightspot without drinking-related problems like fights, they would be more likely to return.

Ms Lauren Wan, training manager at Brewerkz and one of the 12 Tips trainers, said it is important for staff to step in before a customer gets too drunk.

"Some situations are difficult for us. In a table of eight, a tower of beer may not be a lot, it's about a pint each...But if one person is drinking most of do you spot that person, and how do you encourage that person to slow down and drink more water, have more food," said Ms Wan.

When contacted, Mr Dennis Foo, who heads the Singapore Nightlife Business Association, said Tips will be another step towards raising professionalism in the nightlife industry.

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