Reducing liquor liability before the first drop is poured


Training employees in safe alcohol service is one step a business can take to reduce risk.


Failing to act responsibly when serving alcohol could be catastrophic for your business. You could be held accountable for any death, injury or damages caused by an intoxicated patron, resulting in expensive civil or criminal litigation, fines, increased insurance rates, loss of your liquor license – even the loss of your business. Safeguards can reduce the risk.

Consider that every day 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Golf courses, hotels, restaurants, craft breweries and other hospitality-related service businesses are especially vulnerable.

Educate your employees by taking these steps to jumpstart this very important conversation:

  • Train your employees in safe alcohol service. Responsible drinking begins with responsible service. Enroll your bartenders, servers and staff in an alcohol service certification program.
  • Always card everyone. No matter how old your patrons appear to be, everyone should present their IDs if they look 40 years old or younger. You never want to risk inadvertently serving a minor.
  • Create official protocol for handling inebriated guests. This gives, your employees the knowledge and confidence to respond to difficult situations in a consistent manner.
  • Develop a call-a-cab program. Establish clear policies about when to give a restaurant, bar, or hotel customer an alternative to get home safely. There are many ways to establish such a program, and it is a business decision; some restaurants, bars and hotels may already have an arrangement with a local cab company.
  • Don’t give away free drinks. This encourages overdrinking. Instead, try giving away free appetizers that will help slow the rate of alcohol absorption.

While avoiding liquor liability entirely may not be possible, having a plan in place to control your exposure can help protect your business, employees, patrons and the public.


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, publications about alcohol-impaired driving.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

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