As the owner of a bar, restaurant, hotel, casino, cruise line, or other on-premises retail business, responsible serving should be a key element to any retail business' philosophy. The phrase "responsible serving" is generally defined as an alcohol industry employee's ability to recognize signs of a patron's excessive drinking while serving alcohol in a professional and reasonable manner and providing utmost customer service.
In the majority of states, practices and promotions that encourage the excessive consumption of alcohol are prohibited. Some states, cities and counties prohibit or limit happy hour promotions and packages, like hotel packages, all-you-can-drink offers, and two-for-one drink deals. Further, most states have dram shop laws that impose liability on licensed establishments that knowingly sell and serve alcohol beverages to underage persons, habitual drunkards, or visually intoxicated persons who subsequently cause injury to third parties or property, as a result of alcohol-related incidents. In order to reduce liquor liability risk, licensed retail businesses should consider implementing all the following mitigating strategies.
Document and regularly update alcohol-related operating policies
Most on-premises retailers have alcohol-related operating policies, but not all on-premises retailers document these policies in writing. It is important to document alcohol-related operating policies because it ensures awareness of and consistent application of such policies and procedures. Written alcohol-related operating policies should include the following topics and procedures: incident reporting system, screening minors, identifying fake identification, recognizing and preventing service to intoxicated persons and habitual drunkards, and understanding how and when to refuse service, and consumption of alcohol by employees.
Once a printed alcohol-related operating policies document is created, retail business management and owners should periodically update these written policies, with the assistance of knowledgeable legal counsel practicing alcohol beverage law, to ensure compliance with state and local alcohol laws and policies. For example, state and local laws vary with regard to
the age minimum for bartenders and service staff, drink promotion restrictions, and the dram shop liability standard.
Routinely review best practices and policies with all employees
Retail businesses should review its written policies, best practices, and expectations with its employees on a scheduled basis, including before large events. These internal training sessions should inform employees of the importance of responsible alcohol service, both as it relates to the business' philosophy and as it relates to governing state and local laws. Additionally, a thorough review of state and local laws, including dram shop laws and happy hour laws, should be discussed, highlighting the consequences of not complying with laws or business policies. Employees should also be made aware of how to handle and communicate situations or issues involving the service and sale of alcohol, like identification of and refusal to serve drinks to minors or intoxicated persons, to management personnel.