Serving Liquor? Top 17 Tips to Protect Your Restaurant & Bar While Minimizing Your Liability

Written by on 11/22/2019 11:19 AM . It has 0 Comments.

Houston-area bar and restaurant owners have a lot to think about when it comes to running their business. Safety must be at the top of that list. From staff safety to food safety to the patron's safety, it is important for restaurant and bar owners to understand their risks and liabilities.

No matter what time of year, one of the biggest areas of liability comes to serving cocktails and alcohol. Your patrons may not always be making the best decisions when consuming these libations. So, your staff must be trained (and following the rules).

Plus, you, as the bar or restaurant owner or manager, must have the right coverages in place to help mitigate any potential risks - whether on your premises or after someone has left.

In this article, we are going to share a few tips for Houston-area bar and restaurant owners that will help you start the conversation with your team.

Our 17 tips for bar & restaurant owners grouped into the following sections:

8 Signs of Intoxication

The first set of tips focus on the basics of what your team needs to know to keep your patrons safe while they enjoy themselves. You and your staff must be able to recognize the signs of intoxication and know how to intervene with intoxicated patrons to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

While alcohol affects everyone differently, some common signs of intoxication include:

  1. Slurred or slowed speech
  2. Losing one's train of thought
  3. Red eyes and an inability to focus
  4. Decreased alertness
  5. Staggering or inability to walk
  6. Reduced fine motor skills, such as being unable to light a cigarette or to place poker chips on a table
  7. Drinking extremely quickly
  8. Acting overly friendly or inappropriate

3-Step System for Knowing When Enough is Enough

Next, let’s look at our 3-step system to help your team identify patrons who are consuming too much.

As you begin to serve patrons, monitor how much a patron is drinking, use the traffic lights system (versus trying to remember the number of drinks that he/she has consumed). 


Here's how the traffic lights system works:

  1. Green:
    The patron shows no signs of intoxication, is in a good mood and is not drinking rapidly. You have the "green light" to serve him or her.
  2. Yellow:
    The patron is not yet intoxicated, but may be drinking quickly, is in a "down" mood or is showing signs of impairment. You should stop serving this patron before he/she becomes intoxicated; proceed with caution.
  3. Red:
    The patron is showing signs of intoxication, may be depressed, aggressive or angry, is drinking fast with the intention of getting drunk. You should STOP serving this patron and seek assistance in removing the patron from the facility safely.

6 Steps to How to Handle Intoxicated Persons

Preventing violence due to unnecessary overdrinking is part of your job. To keep patrons safe while they enjoy themselves, you must be able to recognize the signs of intoxication and know how to intervene with intoxicated patrons.

You have a right and a duty to refuse service to patrons who are intoxicated.

Keep the following 6 tips in mind when trying to cut someone off:

  1. Politely deny service and offer food or alcohol-free drinks.
  2. Avoid threatening statements. Instead, put the focus on yourself by stating "If I serve you another drink, I may lose my job.
  3. Offer to call the patron a ride home.
  4. Be firm. Once you've refused service, don't back down.
  5. Stay calm and remain in control. Serve other customers to avoid unnecessary conflicts.
  6. Be courteous while dealing with someone who may get unruly. 

Bonus Tip: In the event of a violent incident, fill out an incident report documenting the measures that you took to control the intoxicated person. This will assist in defending against liability. 

The 4 Benefits of Liquor Liability Insurance

Liquor liability insurance is designed to protect businesses that sell or serve alcoholic beverages. While not required for business owners in Texas, this type of insurance covers damages that result from things like fights, careless behavior or automobile accidents caused by individuals who have consumed alcohol.

Liquor liability insurance is important, as it protects you in the event your clients or patrons sue your business for damages related to their intoxication - something a general liability policy often won't cover.

Liquor liability insurance provides the following:

  • A method for businesses to meet legal requirements. Depending on the nature of your business and its location, you may be legally required to carry liquor liability insurance. Because the strictness of legal requirements differ from location to location, where your business operates can have a major impact on how your liquor liability insurance is priced. Be sure to speak with an insurance professional to secure the right level of coverage.
  • Protection against unruly customers. Alcohol can alter an individual's state of mind and make your client's behavior unpredictable. This can lead to fights or other potentially dangerous situations. Liquor liability insurance is designed to protect businesses from these situations and is a must for establishments that serve or sell alcohol. It should be noted that assault and battery coverage can often be extended to include specific incidents, such as sexual assault, stabbings, and shootings.
  • Legal fees and court cost reimbursement. In the event that a liquor-related claim arises, legal fees and court costs can add up quickly. Without the right liquor liability policy, your business could have to cover defense costs itself, which can be a huge financial burden for even the most profitable establishments.
  • Coverage for employees. Even if you require your employees to serve liquor responsibly, there's a chance that they may disregard your instructions. Liquor liability policies can cover your employees' improper actions and better protect your business from liquor-related incidents. What's more, certain insurers provide training and risk management strategies to policyholders to help educate businesses and employees as well as lower overall liquor liability exposures.

How to Create a Safety Culture with Your Restaurant Team

Even in the safest restaurant, employees can be exposed to injuries from falls, burns and more. Let us help you with our library of restaurant-specific employee safety materials, including articles, flyers, bulletins and safety manuals that can help promote safety.

Providing food and beverage services may have your finances spread thin, and Pasadena Insurance Agency, Inc. is here to help. We'll work with you to create safety and health programs that will help keep your workforce on the job and productive, which will improve your bottom line.

Safety isn't the responsibility of a single person-everyone in a restaurant needs to be committed to safety. Our restaurant risk management tools can highlight the financial benefits of workplace safety and help establish collaborative safety programs.

If you and your team are ready to take a proactive step toward creating a safety culture within your team, call our office today to see if you qualify for The Cost Control Strategy Solution so we can focus on your liquor liability risk management procedures.

Our team of liability and legal experts will come to your restaurant or bar to help you address your liquor liability and other legal needs. Limitations apply, so we recommend you give our team a call to discuss today.

Just want to learn more about Liquor Liability Insurance recommendations for the state of Texas?

When serving liquor, the best way to protect your business from potential claims is through proper risk management and liquor liability insurance.

These policies can be complex and it's important to get the right information for your operation from a qualified insurance broker.

Call the team at Pasadena Insurance Agency to discuss any questions you may have about protecting your restaurant.

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