How To Keep Your Liquor License In Good Standing

As a bar or restaurant owner, you want to keep your business in good standing. And part of that means being able to serve alcohol. Making mistakes when serving beer, wine, or mixed drinks can cost you, so it pays to know what you can legally get away with and what you should avoid at all costs. Here are four things your bartenders should steer clear of to keep your liquor license in good standing.

Over-serving Alcohol

You and your staff have a legal obligation to make sure customers do not consume too much alcohol while visiting your establishment. Over-serving beer, wine, and other spirits can lead to a number of issues, including but not limited to the following:

1) Drunk and Disorderly Conduct

It probably goes without saying, but you can't control everyone's actions in your bar. You can, however, be held accountable under certain circumstances. Bar fights, public drunkenness, and disturbing the peace are all violations that could get you in trouble, particularly if customers are acting that way because they've been served too much alcohol. Isolated incidents are not likely to cause problems, unless it becomes a habit, but it's best to avoid over-serving, regardless. 

2) Driving While Impaired

If a customer leaves your bar drunk and gets injured in an accident on the way home, there could be consequences that affect you. In most cases, juries tend to hold people responsible for their own actions. In other words, it can be difficult to prove that a bar is liable for getting someone drunk. But that doesn't mean you should keep serving customers who continue to hand over cash. If a non-drinking plaintiff is injured, and they can prove that you continued to serve alcohol to someone who was visibly intoxicated, you could have to pay fines, and you may lose your liquor license for good.

Over-serving alcohol can easily be avoided. Familiarize yourself with a few tricks to slow down consumption, like using narrow straws. And be sure to train your staff to look for the following signs that someone has had too much to drink:

  • Talking loudly
  • Slurring their speech
  • Stumbling around
  • Spilling their drinks
  • Ordering multiple drinks too fast
  • Acting aggressively toward customers or staff

Your employees should also be aware that they have the right to refuse to serve anyone if they believe they've had too much. It's always better to be safe than sorry. Also, being tactful and diplomatic is the best approach. For instance, avoid statements that accuse the customer of being drunk but rather state that they've had enough to drink. This is more likely to avoid a confrontation. Lastly, if a customer is visibly intoxicated, your staff should do everything possible to prevent them from getting behind the wheel. Offer to call a cab, or assist the customer in contacting a friend to pick them up.

Serving Minors

As you know, serving alcohol to a minor is not only illegal, but it can also swiftly lead to the loss of your liquor license. Again, this is easily avoidable by checking photo IDs of every customer who orders a drink. Be sure you're familiar with the laws in your state regarding acceptable ways to prove age. For example, if your bar is in Massachusetts, and someone is busted for underage drinking, you could be held liable if they showed an out-of-state driver's license. In general, if you aren't 100% sure that the person ordering is at least 21 years of age, you should ask for acceptable identification.

Drinking in Unauthorized Areas

Your establishment has "zones" that prohibit the consumption of alcohol in those areas. They typically include bathrooms, food preparation areas, hallways, or storage rooms. Be sure you know where these zones are located and place signs that say "no alcohol beyond this point" to keep your license in good standing.

Serving After Hours

Laws dictate when you can and can't sell alcoholic beverages, and they vary by state. In Arizona, the bars must stop selling at 2 a.m., but the customer can continue to drink until 2:30 a.m. The earliest alcohol can be served is 6 a.m. In Indiana, the hours you can legally sell alcohol are between 7 a.m. and 3 a.m., with a half hour to finish the drink once served.

Keeping your liquor license in good standing essentially comes down to knowledge of state laws and adequately training your staff. When this is accomplished, most bars and restaurants can continue to serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks without problems. 

For more information about licensing, contact companies like Arizona Liquor Industry Consultants.