How to Deal with Over-Served Bar Patrons

Drunk man holding a beer and car keys

How to Deal with Over-Served Bar Patrons 

As a bar owner, you could be held responsible for what a drunk customer does once they leave your business. It all comes down to the specific circumstances of the incident and the laws in your state. You could be held legally and financially responsible for injuries or damages caused by someone who was over-served at your bar. In most cases, this involves the after effects of an auto accident. Intoxicated people can also cause harm in other ways. You cannot afford to take responsibility for their unpredictable and often dangerous actions. That’s why it’s so important for you to read this post.

Does Your State Have a Dram Law?

A dram law, also known as a dram shop law, is used to prevent bar staff from over-serving minors and people who are clearly intoxicated.  Does your state have one of these laws?  If you don’t know, we suggest you should find out, then meet with an attorney to have the law explained to you.  We’re happy to explain the basics of the dram law, however, this information cannot replace the advice you get from qualified legal counsel.  An attorney will always be your best source for legal advice in this and other matters.

Under current dram shop laws, bar owners and bartenders can be held liable for damages or injuries caused by people they serve alcohol to under two conditions:

  1. If you sell alcoholic beverages to someone who’s a known alcoholic or alcohol addict. Would you like to be held responsible for the actions of an alcoholic who gets into an auto accident or hurts someone in some way?  This could easily happen if your state has a dram shop law and you or your staff are found in violation of it.  Even if you win the case against you, it can be costly and time consuming.  Some business owners never fully recover from the steep legal expenses incurred in just one legal battle.  (It’s like the old saying goes, “When a case goes to court, the only ones who win are the lawyers.”) 
  2. Bar owners could be held responsible for the actions of a minor who was sold alcohol in their establishment. This includes any injuries or damage that minor causes while he or she is under the influence.  In most cases, it doesn’t even matter if you or your bartender knew that the person was underage.  This is yet another reason for you to have an attorney explain the ins and outs of the dram shop laws in your state.  (It’s also a good reason why you and your staff much check the IDs of anyone who looks like they could pass for being underage!) 

It’s absolutely vital for you to obey the dram laws in your state. That shouldn’t be the only reason to stop serving people who are drunk, though. Even if you don’t have a dram shop law, the person you over-serve could get crash their car into a family of four. Are you prepared to live with the guilt that you inadvertently caused the deaths of four people? Think about that long and hard about that before you answer it.

8 Tips to Help Avoid Over-Serving Patrons

People come to bars to drink.  That’s the whole point, right?  Problems only occur when customers have more than they can handle.  The effects of this can vary from person to person, as you might already know.  You might be an expert at spotting the signs of a customer who’s had too much, but what about your staff?  Have they been trained to identify customers who need to be cut off?  The following tips can help you and them recognize the warning signs and allow you to err on the side of caution:

  1. If you have a customer who is known or widely recognized to be an alcoholic, tell him/her that they’re not welcome in your bar. This can help you avoid the trouble of violating the dram law in your state.
  2. If one of your customers is drinking too fast, or spilling their drink, chances are good that they’re already intoxicated. Cut them off!
  3. Do you have a customer who’s being loud, boisterous, and/or aggressive toward other patrons? Chances are good that they’ve already had too much.
  4. If a patron is being extremely quiet, this can also be a danger sign. They might not only be drunk, there’s a chance they could be planning to attack someone.  Bar fights happen when people have had too much, so keep an eye on the quiet ones, too.
  5. Slurred speech and fumbling fingers – such as being unable to handle money – are signs of intoxication.
  6. Is a patron crying or becoming overly emotional about a recent breakup or loss of a loved one? While it’s easy to empathize with this person, that empathy could cause you to over-serve them.  Be careful and train your staff to look for these signs.
  7. Customers who seem drowsy or actually nod off at the barstool are very likely drunk.
  8. If a patron stumbles or falls off their bar stool, they’ve had way too much. Do not serve them another drink.  Also, take their keys and call them an Uber, Lyft, or cab.  If they can’t sit or walk, they sure as heck can’t drive!

6 Tips for Spotting Fake IDs

With the advent of digital technology, it’s not too hard for kids to make fake IDs these days.  Some of them do some very convincing work, too.  It can be easy for bar owners and staff to be fooled by some of the high tech fake IDs being made these days.  Unfortunately, that’s no excuse, especially if your state has dram shop laws.  Here are six tips to help you and your bar staff spot fake IDs:

  1. Each state has different security features built into its IDs and driver’s license. Check with your state, which might have a booklet and other tutorials that teach bar owners what to look for.  Your state’s department of motor vehicles is a great place to get this information.  You can also reach out to your local police departments for additional tips.
  2. If you get an ID you suspect, compare it to one that you know is valid. Look for ways in which the two cards are similar.  If there are differences in thickness, size, lettering, coloring, or corners, chances are good that you have a fake.  In many cases, fake IDs tend to be thinner than legitimate ones due to the type of papers that fakers use.
  3. Study the microprint with a magnifying glass. Microprints tend to look like a straight line until they are magnified 10 times.  When you do this, you will see the words in the microprint rather clearly.  Note: Microprints are located in different positions depending on the state.
  4. Use an ultraviolet light. These lights will find built-in security features that most states put on fake IDs.  These are very difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce, and many fake IDs don’t have these UV-illuminated features.
  5. Counterfeit IDs often have various misspellings and other mistakes. If someone hands you an ID that has the name or abbreviation of your state misspelled, it’s a fake.  Do not let this person into the bar.
  6. Compare the picture and physical description to the cardholder. Does the person standing in front of you look like the picture on their ID?  If not, it could be a fake.  Also, if the information on the card doesn’t match, such as the card stating the person has brown eyes but the person has blue eyes, it’s also a fake.  Same goes for the person’s height and weight and the relevant information on the card.

You can spot a fake ID by observing the person who handed it to you. If they appear nervous or anxious, such as not making eye contact, the ID might be fake. If you get a suspicious vibe off the person, ask them some questions about the information on their card. Ask them their middle name, their address, and/or what year they graduated high school. If they stumble over any of the answers, their ID is probably fake.

These are the other tips should help you and your staff avoid over-serving the wrong patrons.  This information should also help you avoid over-serving patrons who’ve already had too much.  Look, cutting people off is a normal part of the bar business, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do it in extreme circumstances.  It’s for your safety as well as theirs, even if they probably won’t appreciate it in the moment.  Just remember these tips and be sure to consult an attorney if you’re not familiar with the dram laws in your state.

Offer DIRECTV to Your Bar Patrons 

While owning and operating a bar is a responsibility, you and your patrons can have fun, too.  This is especially true if you have DIRECTV at your bar or pub.  You’ll attract more people with this satellite TV service at your bar, especially if you choose one of DIRECTV’s sports viewing packages.  Game days will keep you busy with customers who stay longer and order more food and drinks.  That’s why it’s a great idea to offer DIRECTV at your business.  This satellite TV service is a huge hit among bar owners and patrons across the country.

Don’t know who to call to with your questions about DIRECTV?  Signal Connect can help.  As an AT&T Preferred Dealer, we sell DIRECTV programming packages and equipment.  Delivering DIRECTV to bars and restaurants is one of our specialties.  Two of our commercial satellite TV experts, Essa Alijelat and Nicholas Mily, have delivered DIRECTV to many bars and pubs.  These two will answer any questions you might have about the benefits of offering satellite TV at your business.  Essa and Nic are happy to answer your questions.  Just call them at 866-726-4182.