In the restaurant and bar industry, overserving alcohol to a customer can land you in hot water. Recognizing an intoxicated customer, monitoring drinks, and carding minors are just some of the basics that any alcohol server should know to do. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
The Costly Effect of Ignoring The Law
In most states, restaurants and their employees can be held liable if a customer leaves intoxicated and causes a death, injury, or property damage. Criminal charges are also possible if a minor was served or if someone was overserved alcohol.
On an August night in South Carolina, James Gainey Jr was drinking excessively at a local bar while underage. He left around 1 AM to pick up his friend, 19 year old Caitlin Clark, on his motorcycle. While driving, Gainey lost control, went off the roadway, and struck a fence with enough force to throw Clark from the back of the motorcycle. The impact left her with severe injuries and unfortunately, she died at the scene. Gainey was charged with a felony DUI and sentenced to 5 years in prison and 4 years of probation.
But the story didn’t end there. The father of the victim filed a civil suit against the bar. The lawsuit asserts that in addition to serving an underage drinker, Mr. Gainey Jr. had been served so much alcohol that the bar employees “knew or should have known Gainey was intoxicated.” When there are serious allegations like these, they bring a lot of negative press, require a lot of time and money to address, and the outcome is never certain. Families of the affected victims can seek justice on behalf of their loved ones and succeed, such as with the case of Emma Longstreet’s $3.85 million settlement or Justin Timmerman’s $975,000 settlement in 2015. Unfortunately, stories like this happen all the time.
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Protect Your Business
Luckily, there is an easy way to prevent your business from being involved in a tragedy. Although the legal implications of serving a minor or overserving a customer are severe, proactive training is easy to implement and has many benefits for your business.
Having your employees take an alcohol server training course can offer these benefits listed below:
- Education is key. It is wise to educate your staff how to identify underage drinkers. Checking for an ID isn’t enough. Employees should also check the appearance and behaviors of the customer
- Improve communication. It can be difficult to confront a customer with something as delicate as telling them they can’t be served any more alcohol. Proper training can provide effective communication skills to help your staff help your business stand its ground.
- Know the laws of the land. After all, it’s important to know the laws of your state so you know what can be held against your staff and your business if something was done wrong.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the cost of irresponsible serving can lead to far greater financial, emotional, and legal consequences than whatever else was being prioritized in the short term. As a knowledgeable and well-trained establishment, you have the opportunity to protect your business and the community around you and your patrons will respect you for it. You can still continue to increase your alcohol sales with promotions along with employee education that will in-turn secure your business.