The Register’s Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) is the oldest, largest and longest week-long bicycle touring event in the world, but over the years it has developed a reputation for partying and revelry.
Over 10,000 riders cycle through the routes each summer, and along the way they encountered hundreds of alcohol sellers. Most of the alcohol sales and operations along the routes had gone unregulated, as many of the alcohol retailers along the route had never received proper education, and the state’s alcohol laws were under-enforced.
Administrator Stephen Larson of the Iowa ABD saw this issue, and spearheaded a program that included set schedules for license applications and in-person visits with local authorities. The goal with the program was to educate sellers on how to properly follow Iowa’s alcohol laws, and ensure compliance with the state’s alcohol rules and regulations.
“Because RAGBRAI tends to attract a lot of people and there’s a lot of alcohol consumed along the route, he thought it would be a good effort for us to get out, educate and reach out to license holders and other interested parties,” says Heather Schaffer, a compliance officer at the agency.
Since liquor licensees along the routes had minimal regulation in the past, the Iowa ABD tried to educate as many people as possible in a short amount of time. Members of the ABD offered the Program for Alcohol Compliance Training (IPACT), a free program to help potential licensees learn about selling and serving. Over 500 users were certified in the program in towns along the RAGBRAI route in the months leading up to the event this year.
In 2016, RAGBRAI operated a route through southern Iowa, and ABD regulators had onsite visits with each individual wholesaler, creating information packages from scratch. They checked in with and educated the sellers before and after RAGBRAI, to ensure compliance with the regulations.
With their second year of operation in 2017, the ABD made some minor alterations, and Schaffer said that their operations became more organized. Rather than meet with each individual wholesaler, they met with a seller of each brand at a centralized location. Representatives of Budweiser, for instance, could all meet in one place.
After its second year of operation, with 421 total entities educated, members of the ABD say they’ve gotten great feedback so far.
“From hearing what the investigators say when they’ve been out there, people have been very appreciative of this educational opportunity,” Program Planner for Education and Outreach Jake Holmes says. “Most of the information is things they should normally be doing in their day-to-day operations.”
Since the RAGBRAI route changes every year, it allows investigators and members of the Iowa ABD to travel and educate wholesalers from completely different parts of the state.
“It’s a way for us to meet with people we haven’t necessarily met with in the past. We’re hitting a lot of locations in a limited amount of time,” Schaffer adds.
He and Holmes both say that the effort will continue next year, when the route will likely hit the central part of Iowa.