Although this could be the beginning to a joke, it’s not. This happens way too much and operators have to be sure ALL employees understand and can recognize the signs and symptoms of someone who’s over-intoxicated.
OK, two drunks walk right past the hostess who attempts to ask if they are eating or just going to the bar. The hostess is just 19 years old, so as for life experiences, she’s got zero and is too frightened to deal with the two guys. She doesn’t say anything to anyone when the two drunks just walk right by her and straight to a small high top table.
After a couple of minutes a server walks to the table, drops off two menus and asks what they’d like to drink. They order a couple of beers but the server starts to feel uneasy as she looks and listens to them order. Both are slurring their words, giggling, have watery glassy eyes and are uneasy on their barstools. She walks away not sure if she should serve them but orders the beers anyway.
As a manager walks by, let’s call him Mike, the server says; “hey, can you check those two guys to see if they should be drinking anymore?” She continues talking saying she thinks they are drunk already but wants to be sure. Mike looks at the two guys and sees from a distance that they’re being too loud, are having trouble focusing on the nearby televisions and are hitting each other with the menus the server left.
Mike knows instantly these two guys need to go. He also recognizes there really hammered and have made it inside his establishment. He starts wondering to himself; “Did they drive here? Are we liable for these two guys? Can we get in trouble if these guys leave our bar and drive drunk?” The manager picks up his phone and texts me with the questions. Here is what I told him.
First, try to consider your establishment always liable if a guest comes to your bar sober or drunk. This doesn’t mean you’ll get sued or that you’ll lose a lawsuit but if you just keep this mindset, you will be better prepared to protect yourself by thinking ahead of any problems. I went on to ask several questions and then laid out this plan for him to follow.
- Notify another employee, a bouncer, if he has them currently working, that he is going to ask two over-intoxicated guests to leave. I always advise that a single employee never deal with any intoxicated guest alone.
- I told him that when he approaches the two guests to ask them to leave, expect they won’t like this but understand they’re drunk and want to continue drinking.
- Next, when he approaches them, GIVE them two bottles of water. Don’t offer them water or ask if they want some water, just simply give them water. If you offer them water, they will often times say no. Just give them water.
- In whatever nice, calm language the manager wants to use, tell the two guys that he just can’t serve them any alcohol and that he’s very sorry but they are going to have to leave. They may just say ok and leave but they may also not like this and start making a scene or worse. Just expect it and be ready for it.
- Next, as they walk to the front door, offer to call them a cab. Add in that you don’t want them to drive and a cab can get them home safe. Again, they may say no thanks and walk away, but you want to be able to testify that you offered them a cab.
- If your bar is located in a downtown area where the two guys just walk down the street away from your location, fine. However, if you have a parking lot and see one of the guys getting his car keys out, be ready to take a couple additional proactive smart steps to help protect your establishment.
- If they keep walking to their car, again, using whatever nice, non-threatening language you like, tell them again that they shouldn’t drive and to please let you call them a cab. If they keep walking away from you, tell them you really don’t want them to drive and that the police are always in this area looking for drunk drivers. If they simply ignore you and get in their car and pull out of the parking lot, make an attempt to get their vehicle license plate and the description of the vehicle.
- This next step scares a lot of managers and owners but think about it before you simply say; “No Way”. This is a really valuable step to prove you are acting appropriately. As the two drunks drive out of your parking lot, call local authorities and report that a possible drunk driver just left your parking lot. Advise the dispatcher that they walked into your bar, you saw they were too drunk to serve them and asked them to leave. Tell the server you gave them water and offered to call them a cab several times and they just ignored you. Tell the dispatcher the vehicle description and the license plate and hang up. The police aren’t going to immediately run into the area to look for the car, they will keep an eye open during their normal duties and that’s it. They don’t write a report about that call you made and the only documentation is that you called to report a drunk driver. This type of call can’t hurt you if you have annual reviews of the calls for police service to your location.
- Finally, these drunks just might have a serious accident from being so intoxicated and claim they were coming from your bar, be sure to make a quick note about this brief encounter. Don’t over think this. Simply write a paragraph of what the server did, what you did, the time they came in and the time they left. The final piece of this proactive and smart encounter is to save the venue video from the time they walked in to the time they left.
That’s it, simple, easy and smart. The total time of this encounter was less than 5 minutes and the eventual result could save your establishment hundreds of thousands of dollars. You see, should these drunks have an accident and hurt themselves or someone else, the families might try to sue your venue for allowing them to consume alcohol and then drive drunk. However, during the very beginning of the lawsuit, the attacking attorney will see that you didn’t serve them, that you gave them water, that you made them leave, that you offered a cab on numerous occasions and that you called the authorities on them. Oh yeah, and all of this is captured on your internal video that you saved! Your insurance company will truly love you.
In our original story with Mike the manager, after he called the police, they were nearby and were able to stop the car as the drunks were climbing in to drive away. Great ending. I asked Mike to take care of one other point; train the hostesses to be aware of over-intoxicated guests and to not be afraid to notify other employees if they feel a guest shouldn’t be allowed in the bar or to be served alcohol.