The new year begins at the end of this week, and many people will be out reveling and ringing it in. Some may stay at home, but other will have a night out on then town. Those celebrating are not the only ones that need to be careful. If you are a bar or restaurant owner, bartender, or server, be vigilant when serving alcohol. You can be liable of you serve a minor or over-serve an overtly drunk individual. Under dram shop law, bar owners, servers, and retail stores can be held liable if they sell alcohol to a minor or someone who is already drunk, and that person in turn injures or kills a third party due to driving drunk or other by other means (such as assaults). If the wounded party provides evidence that the serving or selling of the alcohol was the proximate cause of their injuries, they may be entitled to compensation.
Dram Shop law were put into place to protect the public from the irresponsible selling of alcohol to minors or discernibly intoxicated patrons.
Violations may include:
- Selling alcohol to a minor
- Over service of alcohol
- Selling alcohol without checking ID
- Selling alcohol without a license
- Selling alcohol after hours
There are many ways to avoid becoming the defendant on the end of a dram shop claim.
- If unsure about a patron’s age, check ID. This will prevent serving liquor to a minor.
- Don’t be afraid to cut someone off. It’s not only a right, but a duty to stop serving a visibly intoxicated customer.
- Avoid overcrowding. Capacity is not just a number – overcrowding can lead to fights among other safety hazards.
- Know the signs of intoxication. Not sure what they are? The State of Oregon Liquor Control Commission created a comprehensive list. View it here.
- Don’t serve alcohol outside of legal sales hours. In Washington, liquor sales are allowed from 6 A.M. to 2 A.M. For more info, Wikipedia has a detailed list of liquor law by state.
Don’t think it can’t happen to you. I’ve helped many clients with dram shop claims. Whether in a car accident or assaulted by an intoxicated individual, I’ve proven liquor licensee liability. Err on the side of caution when serving alcohol this weekend. You might save your business, your job, or even save a life.
Happy New Year to you.