Lessen Your Liquor Liability Risk Memorial Day Weekend

Your bar, restaurant, and venue clients are usually pretty responsible with making sure their server staff is properly trained when it comes to alcohol consumption. Typically, they require servers to take courses and attain a certification in order to serve alcohol, or before they’re put on the server schedule. However, you might need to remind them that this Memorial Day weekend will be a little different than the previous. 


First, with many restaurants recently reopening or reopening to full capacity, they will have many servers on duty who haven’t worked in a while. This means they might be a little rusty and could forget some of their training. If they’ve recently had to staff up in order to reopen, they may also have many new servers who, although recently trained, are inexperienced when it comes to dealing with the situations arising from alcohol consumption. 


Second, it’s shaping up to be one of the busiest weekends restaurants have had in a long time! With much of the population now vaccinated and people dying to be out in public, many of those who’ve shied away from crowds during the last year will be emerging to participate in normal life again. As a result, the crowds will be out in droves during this holiday weekend, putting many restaurants in a position they haven’t been in for a while.


This year, the combination of circumstances leaves the hospitality industry in a more vulnerable position. Therefore, reminding your clients to go over these liquor liability basics will hopefully better prepare them for a crazy, long weekend. 


Equip employees to identify signs of intoxication, which may include:

  • Inhibited motor skills.
  • Slurred speech
  • Tendency to lose train of thought easily.
  • Red or dilated eyes.
  • Stumbling, staggering, or having trouble walking.
  • Delayed reaction time.


Make sure employees monitor customers’ liquor consumption.

Employees should recognize when patrons have had too much to drink. If they seem to be ordering a lot of drinks, employees can look at tabs and count how many they’ve had. No matter the size of the person, it takes 3 hours for one drink to fully leave their system, and depending on their size, it can take anywhere from 2-4 drinks within an hour to put someone over the legal limit of intoxication. 


The SMART program (Servers and Managers Alcohol Responsibility Training) often used to train servers suggests using a traffic light system:

Green: Customer shows no sign of impairment, is in a good mood, and is not drinking rapidly. 

Yellow: Customer may be drinking quickly or may be in a depressed mood or out to celebrate. The goal is to note the behavior and stop serving before they’re intoxicated. 

Red: Customer shows signs of intoxication, may be depressed or aggressive, and seems intent on drinking more. They should not be served alcohol. 


Remind them how they should deny service.

  • Be polite and offer non-alcoholic beverages or food alternatives.
  • Place the focus on themselves by explaining they could lose their job if they continue to serve the patron.
  • Offer to call a ride sharing service or friend to drive the customer home.
  • Use a firm tone and do not back down if met with resistance.
  • Remain calm at all times and seek a manager’s assistance if the situation escalates.


Remind them of how they should report incidents.

Make sure employees know how to fill out an incident report so they can document the situation with a detailed description of the incident, including the intoxicated person’s name and names of witnesses. In the event of legal action, this reduce’s your client’s liability. 


Give them a refresh on your carding/ID policies.

All restaurants have policies for requiring someone to show a valid ID in order to be served alcohol. Make sure all servers remember how and when they should “card” patrons, and remind them that they may be personally liable if they don’t.


Make sure your liquor liability policy is up to date. 

When restaurants shut down or started running at a limited capacity, they changed their insurance policies. If they’ve recently reopened at full capacity, their policy needs to be updated in order for them to be fully covered. 


If you need to update a policy or need new liquor liability coverage, Quaker Special Risk can get you comprehensive coverage at a competitive rate. Contact us for a quote today.


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