How do you prevent patron intoxication and alcohol-impaired driving when you are serving alcoholic beverages? Assess how much a person has been drinking by recognizing the signs of intoxication and using the following methods for intervening with intoxicated guests.
While alcohol affects everyone differently, the signs of intoxication generally include:
- Slurred or slowed speech
- Tendency to lose a train of thought
- Red eyes and inability to focus
- Decreased alertness
- Staggering or the inability to walk
- Fine motor skills are affected
- Drinking faster than usual
- and Being overly friendly
To monitor how much a guest is drinking, the SMART program suggests using the traffic light system rather than counting how many drinks a guest has had. Here’s how it works:
- The patron shows no sign of impairment, is in a good mood, and is not drinking rapidly. Guest gets a green light!
- The patron is not yet intoxicated, may be drinking quickly, is either in a “down” mood or out to celebrate, and may be showing some signs of impairment. Your goal is to stop serving before a guest is intoxicated, so serve this guest with caution!
- The patron is showing signs of intoxication, may be in a depressed, aggressive or bad mood, is drinking fast, and seems intent on becoming drunk. Stop! This guest should not be served alcohol.
You have both the right and the duty to refuse service to an intoxicated patron. This puts you at risk, so keep the following in mind:
- Politely deny service. Offer food or alcohol-free alternatives.
- Tact and courtesy go a long way in preventing explosive situations.
- Avoid threatening statements. Instead, put the focus on yourself.
- Offer to call a taxi or a friend for a ride.
- Be firm. Once you have refused service, do not bargain or back down.
- Stay calm and remain in control. Move on to serving other customers or attend to other tasks to keep yourself busy.
If removal of a drunk patron becomes necessary, it should be done as quickly and with the least amount of force as possible. Using unreasonable force may result in injury and subsequent legal action. If there is the chance of a violent reaction from a patron, be prepared to call the police for assistance. In the event of an incident, fill out a Liquor Liability Incident Form, available on EMPLOYERS’ Loss Control Connection, which documents the measures taken to control an intoxicated person, and helps to defend liability in the event of an alcohol-related accident.
Intervening with an intoxicated patron may seem difficult, but your actions are critical. When you take the appropriate steps to prevent intoxicated patrons and alcohol-impaired driving, everyone benefits.
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