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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Server Education: Liquor Liability

BACK to the drab and boring need-to-know information as a server. This is related to that last post in that this is a blog about responsible liquor service and alcohol related laws. I am ServSafe certified in responsible alcohol service, which is a nationally recognized certification that say I am capable of serving someone alcohol without being a screw-up. I am not a lawyer, nor a police officer, nor a judge. I can only explain the laws as I understand them, and the legal liablilty as I know it. It is always your responsibility to know the laws and use your descretion, this is just a blog about one man's experience with it, not a legal reference book.
You do not need to be certified to serve alcohol, but you may need a liquor license, which is issues by the city (depending on your state).
Why do I need a liquor license? No individual can work with or around or manager people who work with or around alcohol if they have committed an alcohol related crime, usually D.U.I. A liquor license is a background check to see if you have committed such a crime and if you are eligible to serve, make, or manage drinks. This is incentive for the managers out there to not drink and drive, your career is on the line.
Why doesn't everyone need a liquor license? State laws vary, some states require the server to go out and purchase this card, other places require the employer to send in the list of employee names, then they will all be run at the same time. The alcohol authority will then send a message back clearing employees or explaining that John is not going to be able to continue employment. How often do they send in the list of names? Every time their liquor license expires (1 or 2 years typically, it varies). Liquor licenses should be availible for the general public to examine, so you shouldn't have much trouble determining when the license will expire.

First, some basic knowledge is needed about alcohol. There are three major types of alcohol: wine, beer, and liquor. Each is different, and a different method is used to produce each one. I will write more about this sort of thing as I have made both wine and beer, and have an extensive knowledge of the liquor making (distillation) process. But that is neither here nor there.
The average human can effectively process or "neutralize" the effects of one alcoholic drink per hour. Well, what is considered a drink?? 12 ounces of beer (5% ABV), 5 ounces of wine (12% ABV), 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor (40% ABV) or 1 ounce of 100-proof (50% ABV) liquor. So this means if someone does 3 shots of 100-proof liquor back-to-back they will begin to process one, then still have 2 backed up in their system an hour later, thus the danger of hard liquor. So, if you are enjoying a gin martini (containing 3 ounces of 80-proof gin) you are really enjoying 2 drinks not the 1.
Knowing this information will allow you to effectively ration the number of drinks you are serving to a particular individual.
You should never over serve anyone.
You should never allow a drunk person in your building.
You should never touch anyone else while dealing with drunks or drinkers.
Liquor liability is a huge deal. If you over serve anyone and they drive home it could mean disaster for everyone. If that person gets in a crash or hits another car (hopefully without killing anyone) you, your establishment, and the owner of the place can all be held liable (state laws vary obviously). Even if you just serve one drink to someone already drunk, you can be held liable. The best bet if a drunk approaches the building is to refuse entry. Don't let them in for anything. Offer to bring them a phone to call a cab, or a glass of water, whatever, but don't let them in, even to use the restroom. You should call the police as well. Any time you have a drunk person attempting to drive you should call the police, even if it was you that over served them. Try to get the vehical description and which direction they are headed.
Before a guest gets drunk, slow them down, offer them water, offer them a fatty food like a steak. Don't let them get drunk. If you no longer feel comfortable serving drinks to a guest get a manager to handle the situation, it's why they are there. Do not ever serve someone if you don't feel comfortable with it, even if your manager tells you to (remember it is your livelyhood on the line). Do not ever tell someone, "I'll get you one more." or "After this one you're cut-off." It's problematic, wait until they order the other drink, then get a manager to cut them off.
If you can't get a manger always bring someone else with you to the table and explain in 'I' and 'me' terms. NEVER say, "You've had enough." that's just asking for trouble, try "Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to serve any more drinks tonight." or "I am concerned about your safety." You can always lie and blame almost anyone, "We are not allowed to serve anyone more than three drinks."
Communication is important when dealing with potentially drunk guests. As the server you need to explain to the bartender not to make them anymore drinks, the management that you need to cut someone off, and other servers or support staff that you may need assistance with a dangerous situation potentially.
Serving alcohol is not rocket science but as Spiderman knows, "with great power comes great responsibility." This is all information you will learn and will become second nature, look for more blog posts about spotting someone becoming intoxicated, checking ID's, and different types of drinks!


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