Bartenders and Drunk Drivers

Nancy Anderson
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Probably everyone who has worked at a hotel or restaurant/bar has had to deal with a person who has had too much to drink. Waitresses have had guests who have had too much to drink and front desk clerks have been there when guests return to the hotel after last call. But it is bartenders who face this situation on a regular basis. The question is, how do you deal with drunks?

Cutting them off is the first step. As a bartender or server you are involved and you have a moral obligation to take care of the people you serve and profit from. When people drink, they lose the ability to make good decisions as well as their reflexes and you help them get that way. You also have an obligation to protect innocent people from any harm the customer you over served might cause before he/she sobers up. A little effort on your part can really make a difference.

If you don’t agree that you have a moral obligation (and some people don’t), read on. In North America when a lawsuit is filed against a bar or restaurant and over service is the claim, the bartender or server will be personally liable also. It happens. Check your local liquor laws or ask your police. YOU can be held PERSONALLY responsible.

So what do you do?

  • Suggest that the patron leave his or her car keys with the manager, who will ensure that the car is not towed away.

  • Encourage sober friends to drive the guest home.

  • Offer to call a friend or relative who will agree to drive the customer home.

  • Offer to call a cab.

  • Install a taxi phone and/or have parking stalls reserved outside the main door for them.

  • If the patron refuses all of the above suggestions and still insists that he is not too intoxicated to drive home, inform your manager of the efforts you have made to provide alternative transportation. Your manager might intervene and inform the patron that the police may have to be called. This can be done anonymously, but this threat must be made with the full intention of following through if necessary.

In today’s litigious society, it has become commonplace for people to deny responsibility for their actions and blame – and sue – others. Likewise, those injured by others don’t blame just the individual, but anyone and everyone else connected to the situation – and sue. And while you will certainly want to avoid such an occurrence, more importantly, you want to avoid an accident in the first place.

By Joe Fairchild - Joe who writes for Nexxt, has a strong background in employee training and customer service. Semi-retired, he continues working in the hospitality industry for the customer interaction and travel discounts. A veteran financial advisor and public speaker, he delights in helping others find their path and achieve their goals. Read more of his blogs at


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