Alcohol sales are a great way to boost a restaurant's bottom line, but they can also spell trouble when disruptions by intoxicated customers take center stage. From physical altercations to drunk driving, serving alcohol comes with significant liabilities for restaurants and their staffs if precautions aren't taken.
Here's how to handle intoxicated customers and avoid overserving in the first place.
A Quick Liability Refresher
The sale of alcohol comes with its own unique set of liabilities. There are three main ways this exposes your restaurant and employees to greater consequences:
- Altercations: Alcohol lowers inhibitions and causes customers to behave in ways they might not otherwise. The likelihood of both verbal and physical altercations tends to increase as does the possibility of lewd conduct, any and all of which can be directed at employees and other customers.
- Property damage: As behavior becomes more unpredictable, damage to the property can occur. Graffiti and broken glassware are just a few examples, with expenses growing into the thousands depending on the scope.
- Dram shop laws: Dram shop laws apply to businesses selling alcoholic beverages. In the event an employee knowingly serves an intoxicated or minor customer and that individual injures someone – either while at the establishment or after leaving – the business and employee can be held liable for the incident. Check the specific laws in your state and keep in mind that it is possible that your city or county has specific regulations as well.
Although you probably already have liquor liability insurance, be sure you fully understand the coverage as well as the limitations of the policy. Liability policies often have caps and do not negate all criminal or civil responsibility. It's a good idea to have a candid discussion with your attorney and insurance provider about your specific situation.