How to Reduce Your Restaurant or Bar’s Liability Post-COVID
Starting today, restaurants and bars will hopefully find themselves very busy as they’re allowed to reopen at 100% capacity. This may be a time when fun is increased, and inhibitions are decreased due to the intake of beer, cocktails and liquor. Gatherings of friends, co-workers and neighbors is extremely enjoyable but is accompanied by certain responsibilities. But are restaurants and bars responsible for their patrons when they drink too much? Yes and no. There are some basic ways to reduce your establishment’s liability as more people start to go out again.
Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, restaurants and bars (and off-premise establishments like grocery, liquor, and convenience stores) can be sued for things like property damage, personal injury, or death if the incident was due to alcohol being sold or served to a minor or intoxicated person. It boils down to this…if an employee sells or serves alcohol to a minor or to someone who they knew or should have known was drunk, then both the employee and their employer are subject to criminal and civil liability.
Keep the Biggest Liabilities in Mind
There are two biggies that, if followed, will protect your establishment from liability.
- Never sell or serve alcohol to a minor, for any reason. And if you have reason to believe the alcohol might end up in the hands of a minor, refuse the sale.
- Never sell or serve alcohol to someone to the point of intoxication, and especially not after they exhibit signs of intoxication. Remember, if you have reason to believe that the next drink will push your customer over the edge and cause them to be intoxicated, then you must refuse the sale.
If an employee, server, bartender, manager or owner/operator commits either of these two offenses and there is property damage or someone is injured or killed as a result, then both the employee and the business will have to answer for it both criminally and civilly.
To keep it simple, if a restaurant, bar, or off-premise store sells or serves alcohol to someone who they know is already drunk, then there is certain liability. The point to keep in mind here is obvious intoxication. Is it reasonable to think that some of your customers may have already been drinking or under the influence of drugs when they enter your establishment? Of course it is. That’s why you always need to be observant. Be sure to greet your customers as quickly as possible so you can get a baseline for their behavior at the very beginning. This is an opportunity for you to be on the lookout for signs of intoxication.
Double Down on Standard Practices
How do you, as an owner or manager, protect your restaurant or bar now that you’re back to 100% capacity? A few simple and consistent practices will protect your establishment, employees and patrons.
- Retrain your staff on checking IDs. An ID must:
- Be issued by a government agency;
- Have a picture and physical description that are consistent with the customer’s appearance;
- Have a date of birth that makes the customer 21 years or older;
- Appear to be valid (Not expired and no obvious signs of alteration or forgery)
- Retrain your staff on the importance of cutting people off and techniques that may help.
- Drive home the importance of communication and make sure your staff knows that you’ll have their backs. Empower your employees to make informed and responsible decisions to protect themselves, the business, the customer, and those who the customer may come in contact with. If an employee has refused a sale to a minor or has cut off a customer, they must communicate that to management and other employees as quickly as possible.
Keep Your Bar Under Surveillance
Drunkenness can be the cause of accidents, falls, fights, and even gaming accidents. Restaurant and bar owners have a duty to keep their property safe from slips and falls, bar brawls and bar game accidents like darts. It is a good idea to have cameras installed to tell the story of any questionable activities.
Stay Up-to-Date with Safety Standards with the Help of TABC On The Fly
As an owner, operator or manager, you can’t be all places at all times, so it’s vital that all employees are properly and thoroughly trained. A well-trained employee will work hard for you and head off any potential issues before they become a real headache. By being proactive versus reactive, you can protect yourself, your business, your employees, and your customers by following strict guidelines and common-sense practices.
Stay proactive the easy way and get your TABC certification online through TABC On The Fly. Our online course keeps you up-to-date and helps you keep patrons safe no matter the time of the year. Register online today!Back to Blog