If your own a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol, you are under obligation to follow the dram shop laws of your state. Dram shop laws are in place to help guarantee a patron's safety when visiting your establishment.
If you do not follow dram shop laws, you potentially put yourself at risk of lawsuits should a patron of your business cause an accident while driving drunk. Here are some things all bar and restaurant owners can do to protect themselves and their patrons under dram shop law:
- Have a strict ID policy. Make it clear to your employees that absolutely no exceptions can be made. This means carding all people at the door of before allowing them order any drinks. Any employees who allow younger friends to drink against the rules should be fired as a matter of company policy. This shows that you have zero tolerance for under-age drinking at your place of business.
- Follow established curfew rules to the letter. Many states require bars and restaurants to close or to stop serving alcohol after a certain hour. Be careful to follow these rules, even closing ten minutes early to avoid any confusion or time differences between clocks. Do not remain for special occasions like a wedding reception or bachelor party.
- Provide training to your employees to recognize the signs of inebriation. Most dram shop laws require that businesses may not serve alcohol if the patron is noticeably impaired before ever ordering a drink. This prevents harmful behavior like bar hopping, and it prevents you from being culpable should the person suffer medically from poisoning. You can make it a point to only serve drinks to customers who have their full faculties. Even though the law may not require it, you can also reserve the right to cut off someone's tab at the discretion of the bar tender for the customer's own safety. Post signs and cameras near the door so all customers are aware of the policy.
Even though you're not required to by law, there are other things you can do to improve your reputation as a proprietor who support responsible drinking. For example, you might request the keys of your patrons and hand them behind the counter to prevent drunk driving. You might also have a contract with a local cab company to provide rides home at a discounted rate.
If you are ever involved in a DUI lawsuit, contact an attorney to help build your case. Your company policies can be part of your defense. For more information, contact companies like Jack Weatherill Law Offices.