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Quill

What role does a server play in managing a customer’s alcohol over-consumption?

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PLEASE DO NOT QUOTE THE DETAILS. 

<removing the substance.> . 

DON’t QUOTE THIS, PLEASE. 

Edited by Quill

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In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the law that servers are not supposed to go past a certain number of drinks. And that they have an obligation to intervene if they suspect an intoxicated person is going to drive. I think the specifics of this vary between jurisdictions, but I know I've seen that bars and restaurants can be fined when patrons go out and commit crimes (including DUI's) when they over served.

Your ds should have been given training and guidance about this.

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Disclaimer: I haven't tended bar since the 1980s. When I was a bartender it was my responsibility to stop serving a customer if I observed they'd had too much. The cocktail waitresses (that's what they were called then) had the same responsibility and in fact they'd tell me if they cut someone off so that the person didn't try to order straight from the bar in order to get around being cut off by their server (yes some people did that).

I don't know about calling an Uber or taxi or whatever but he probably should have refused to serve them the 2nd or 3rd bottle. Some states have laws about serving someone who is intoxicated and I don't know what yours is. That will make a difference in what he should do in the future. He should definitely talk to his manager and ask, though imo they should have included that in his training when they hired him.

Edited by Lady Florida.
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Yes, it is the obilgation of service staff to stop serving people who are obviously intoxicated. If he did not feel comfortable doing that himself, he should have notified the bartending staff.

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So glad it wasn’t worse. I would delete your post, but yes the person you know could be sued.

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I think the liability will vary by state, if that's what you are asking. In TX they are going after bartenders who overserve HARD and arresting ones who overserve people who are invovled in DWI injury or deaths to make an example. 

It would probably be wise for this person to inquire at work about what the standards are. The restaurant and the server could be open to a great deal of liability in Texas. Not sure how it is in your state though. But I would be surprised if they didn't have some sort of policy- at least to cut them off. They could lose their liquor license as a minor thing, get shut down as a major.  

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Okay, I was curious, so I looked it up. Apparently, these are called dram laws. Many places have them, but Maryland does not, though I suppose it's possible that the specific county or town could.

However, I would think that it would be wise for any business to have a policy about this. Certainly, that would be the ethical thing.

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Most laws about this are state or locality specific, and some areas do not put any responsibility on the part of the server while others put a lot of responsibility on them. 

I think it's somewhere down the middle. But young servers in particular without much life experience, in my opinion, should be given a lot of training, and should work with experienced servers to help learn the ropes of figuring assessing situations and responding appropriately. Management and owners should have very well written and thorough policies as well because that helps the servers know exactly what to do and when.

I do believe that ultimately the responsibility to NOT drink too much is on the drinker. However, since it's a public safety issue, it cannot only be on the drinker and must include some reasonable restrictions and guidelines on the seller.

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2 minutes ago, Farrar said:

Okay, I was curious, so I looked it up. Apparently, these are called dram laws. Many places have them, but Maryland does not, though I suppose it's possible that the specific county or town could.

However, I would think that it would be wise for any business to have a policy about this. Certainly, that would be the ethical thing.

 

This. Maryland does, apparently, have a law against serving intoxicated people tho so I imagine the liquor license would be at risk.

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He told me they said only the bartender can cut off a patron, not the server. I also think being a country club is a little bit different from a restaurant where anybody goes. Because there’s the, “Hey, I pay a lot of money to be a member here and i should get however much wine I darn well please!” 

I don’t know, though. 

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24 minutes ago, Quill said:

He told me they said only the bartender can cut off a patron, not the server. I also think being a country club is a little bit different from a restaurant where anybody goes. Because there’s the, “Hey, I pay a lot of money to be a member here and i should get however much wine I darn well please!” 

I don’t know, though. 

 

Is the bartender the one pouring the drinks? If so, the bartender should be consulted when there is an overconsumption issue/concern so that he/she or the manager can cut the patron off.

Edited by Sneezyone
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I’m thinking the above as well. Maybe it is above his pay grade to cut them off, but ethically I would think if he sees someone totally intoxicated like that he should say something to the bartender.

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2 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

 

Is the bartender the one pouring the drinks? If so, the bartender should consulted when there is an overconsumption issue/concern so that he/she or the manager can cut the patron off.

It was full bottles of wine, so not exactly the same thing. I can see where the bartender could be not fully aware the same patron was drinking three bottles. 

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I would assume there is some sort of liability for a restaurant/bar that serves an obviously intoxicated person.  I feel sorry for the server if there was no training given on this point.  The server should definitely ask what the protocol is and be sure it is fully understood, and (if possible) suggest that it be highlighted in training of servers in the future.  It seems like a serious omission if that training was not given or if it was, not emphasized as very important (ie. it would be unlikely that  the server would have forgotten the rules).

 

Edited by marbel
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1 minute ago, Quill said:

It was full bottles of wine, so not exactly the same thing. I can see where the bartender could be not fully aware the same patron was drinking three bottles. 

All the more reason for him to mention a concern to the bartender. If they refuse to do anything, I don't know what more he could realistically do, especially not without risking his job. But at least then he'd have done the right thing to have brought it up.

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I am sure the actual laws vary by location.  

But, I am pretty sure that in most areas, the business, bartender and server can all be sued if something happens.  He needs to find out the exactly what the policy is for his work place immediately.  And if he can't handle telling someone they can't have any more alcohol then he might need to find another job. I haven't worked in a bar, but have worked retail and ultimately, the buck stops at the customer interaction.  If I sold alcohol to a minor, I got fired, and could have been prosecuted.  I had to deny sales many times, and did so both with people who simply didn't have id, regardless of age........and with people that I felt were already toasty.

 

Eta:I think that's maybe a little more harsh than I mean it to be.  Ultimately, telling a customer no is a very important part of a job that involves selling restricted substances.  And it's very important that people who do those jobs learn to be comfortable saying no to a customer.  

Edited by happysmileylady
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5 minutes ago, Farrar said:

All the more reason for him to mention a concern to the bartender. If they refuse to do anything, I don't know what more he could realistically do, especially not without risking his job. But at least then he'd have done the right thing to have brought it up.

I know the law from what you found is different in MD, but just for conversation in general- in TX, even if you tell a supervisor and they tell you to serve anyway, the server can still go to jail under the statute. Not sure on the supervisor. 

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan
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5 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I know the law from what you found is different in MD, but just for conversation in general- in TX, even if you tell a supervisor and they tell you to serve anyway, the server can still go to jail under the statute. Not the supervisor. 

I feel surprised it would be that way in Texas, because I perceive TX as being big on the personal responsibility side. (IOW, I would expect TX, moreso than MD, to legislate as the consumer of alcohol is responsible for his or her consumption levels.) 

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22 minutes ago, Quill said:

I feel surprised it would be that way in Texas, because I perceive TX as being big on the personal responsibility side. (IOW, I would expect TX, moreso than MD, to legislate as the consumer of alcohol is responsible for his or her consumption levels.) 

On this though, there is responsibility on all sides. The consumer will get hit with a DWI, and possibly multiple other felonies if injury or death occurs,  and the server is liable as well- the server on a criminal front, the establishment on a civil front.

Also, at a point, no matter how responsible a person is, alcohol is going to cut the judgement, which is where the server needs to step in. Texas definitely has a prominent Don't Drink and Drive public safety thing- it's not that they don't stress personal responsibility. We have no refusal weekends. I know some states have check points- not sure if we have those. It would be difficult to do where I live, but I think they take DWI's pretty seriously out here. It's definitely not ALL on the server, but if they don't want their license yanked, which can mean certain doom to restaurants in many areas, they better play by TABC's rules. The establishments have to do their part too if they are serving and selling. Otherwise there would be no impediment not to load people up to the limit, because they make more $$$ that way. 

ETA- we have a problem with DWI in general here, so the strictness of the over-serve law may have a lot to do with trying to cut that too. 

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan
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17 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

Eta:I think that's maybe a little more harsh than I mean it to be.  Ultimately, telling a customer no is a very important part of a job that involves selling restricted substances.  And it's very important that people who do those jobs learn to be comfortable saying no to a customer.  

No, it’s fine. I think the nature of that particular serving job is that it’s fairly more A$$-kissing-ish than regular restaurant serving. I think he just hasn’t faced that situation before and didn’t know the protocol. He didn’t think it through as well as I would have hoped, IMO. 

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4 minutes ago, Quill said:

No, it’s fine. I think the nature of that particular serving job is that it’s fairly more A$$-kissing-ish than regular restaurant serving. I think he just hasn’t faced that situation before and didn’t know the protocol. He didn’t think it through as well as I would have hoped, IMO. 

It can be a bit of a learning curve.  He's still young, his employer should have taught and stressed this aspect better and, he's still there will you so you also have the opportunity to help reinforce the importance of it.  

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3 minutes ago, Quill said:

 I think he just hasn’t faced that situation before and didn’t know the protocol. He didn’t think it through as well as I would have hoped, IMO. 

He's young and inexperienced and it's hard to know what to do in that situation. He might have been watching in horror as the intoxication progressed but didn't know how to handle it. The more I think about it, the more angry I get at the employer. I was 23 when I first started bartending and at my first bar job my boss made it clear that I should cut someone off when they had too much. He also made it clear that if I couldn't do it I should let him know so he would handle it. That's how it should be. 

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I had to go through training when the supermarket I worked for started selling beer and wine. I wasn't even serving it. This was in Texas.

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One other thing I will say....every manager I had in that retail setting told me some variation of "If you don't feel comfortable selling it, call me. It doesn't matter why you aren't comfortable, I would rather you call me then sell it when you aren't comfortable."  Sometimes they would sell it anyway, sometimes they would back up the no, but it was always with the understanding that the manager was taking on that responsibility for the first line employee.  I can only think of one time that I was uncomfortable and called a manager who scanned it anyway.  I can think of many times where a person flipped out because I refused a sale, I called a manager, and the manager refused.

  And one very specific time where I was working overnights in a store that had a security guard posted all weekend.  I refused a sale, the guy started to say something, the security guard walked up and asked if there was a problem.  The guy yelled something like "F all y'all" and walked out.  

Saying no can be intimidating in all sorts of situations.  

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I'm coming to this thread late, so I don't know exactly what happened.  I will say that servers are not paid enough to shoulder this kind of responsibility.

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I cannot see the original post. However, I did wait tables and bartend for way too many years in both mom-and-pop places and chain restaurants.

The places that covered the alcohol policies during the hiring and training process were the kind of places that would have management follow thru on those policies. 

The places that never covered alcohol policies during training were the kind of places that eventually I had a problem with a customer and no back-up from management.

Edited by amyx4
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14 minutes ago, Junie said:

I'm coming to this thread late, so I don't know exactly what happened.  I will say that servers are not paid enough to shoulder this kind of responsibility.

I think it depends where you live. In my state, we have one of the highest minimum wages in the country, and that is before tips. Employers have to pay the minimum wage before tips. My son has a few friends that make close to six figures working at high end places in my state’s largest city.

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I’m sure things vary from place to place (and I didn’t see the OP) but it’s been drilled into my head from a pretty young age that establishments (whether that includes a server or not) are responsible for overserved patrons.  My grandparents owned a tavern and many of my relatives worked there. A liquor license was something to guard.

That said, I was never given specific instruction when I was a 19yo server in a different place. And it was further complicated by being attached to a hotel.  Sometimes I knew which customers were staying on site and which were driving, but not always. My sisters, on the other hand, live in a state where they’ve been explicitly responsible as servers, and required to do a whole training and certification process, which can be revoked and leave them unable to get a serving job.

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While it is certainly the “right” thing for management to spend tons of time and resources making sure servers know all their responsibilities and legal parameters, turnover in restaurants, bars and clubs simply don’t allow for it. I wouldn’t expect a young person or new server to know how to handle sticky situations, or even that a situation might be sticky until it’s past. Serving is HARD work and there isn’t always time to stop and consider the choices of every table (nor are young people typcially in the position to question the choices of adults, especially in a country club type establishment).

When I was 19 I worked as a cocktail waitress in a college bar where the entire point was to over drink—I would have lost my job if I hadn’t continued to serve the barely-and questionably-legal students, as long as they were still able to pay their tab. 

I did, however, refuse to serve a very pregnant woman. I had no idea what my rights were, but consulted my manager after I took her order to find out what I should and could do. He agreed I shouldn’t have to if it made me understandably uncomfortable (he served her instead, quietly so it was never an issue and she would have had no idea there was discomfort).

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My sister has bartended, and she has mentioned that she will quit serving at a certain point, and she has also mentioned that she will start making weaker drinks if she is concerned about a patron (especially a woman with a man not drinking as much, I gather).  

She has also mentioned that the security will make sure people have taxis or ubers when they close.  

I think it's something they do look at, but also, it seems like it has to be kind-of getting to obvious drunkenness. 

Just my impressions, but I know she does think about it, but I think most of the concern is about leaving the bar and drunk-driving or else a drunken girl leaving with a not-so-drunk guy.  

I do think my sister will cut people off too but there is also a gray area where she does weaker drinks for women sometimes, I guess.  I'm not really sure, she has mentioned it only a couple of times.  

She very much does not want there to be fights in her bar.  That is a big reason she has to pay attention.  Sometimes there are fights in bars in her town and it is scary to her, and something to prevent if possible.  

Edit:  I do have an impression that security at the door is also monitoring people as far as if they are going to go and drive drunk, where my sister works.  And just say "hey, let me call you a taxi, hey, let me call you an uber," etc, and people just go along with it, I guess.  

Edited by Lecka
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45 minutes ago, Lecka said:

My sister has bartended, and she has mentioned that she will quit serving at a certain point, and she has also mentioned that she will start making weaker drinks if she is concerned about a patron (especially a woman with a man not drinking as much, I gather).  

Just my impressions, but I know she does think about it, but I think most of the concern is about leaving the bar and drunk-driving or else a drunken girl leaving with a not-so-drunk guy.  

I do think my sister will cut people off too but there is also a gray area where she does weaker drinks for women sometimes, I guess.  I'm not really sure, she has mentioned it only a couple of times.  

What gives her the right to make judgements about her customers’ situations? 

Making weaker drinks—for WOMEN?!!!!—and charging them the same price is effectively stealing from her customer. Not only is she completely in the wrong throwing around her moral judgment, but she should be fired for knowingly and intentionally under serving her customers. Wow

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20 minutes ago, MEmama said:

What gives her the right to make judgements about her customers’ situations? 

Making weaker drinks—for WOMEN?!!!!—and charging them the same price is effectively stealing from her customer. Not only is she completely in the wrong throwing around her moral judgment, but she should be fired for knowingly and intentionally under serving her customers. Wow

I suspect that it's not so much about moral judgement as it is about concern for the woman's safety.  

Having said that, I do agree that it's not right.  When DH and I go out, he drives.  Which means he drinks a beer, but I might have 2 or 3 drinks.  It would really irritate me to find out that a bartender was intentionally making a weaker drink for me out of misplaced concern for my safety.  

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You know, I have to say my sister isn’t stupid and I tend to think she can tell apart a college aged girl in a bad situation, from someone out with their husband.  

I think it’s a gray area but — I think it is what it is.  

There is some gray area with how strong to make drinks.

I don’t think it’s just women — I think bartenders do have leeway to make weaker drinks.  

I think there are a lot of judgment calls involved,  but I think someone working in a bar for years probably has gotten to have good instincts.  

I think it’s just a common-ish situation for her for it to be a drunk woman being taken out by a guy, not the only situation.  

I think anyone could tell the difference between me and my husband, and a different situation, though, I don’t think it’s actually that hard to see a questionable situation compared to something that’s not questionable.  

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1 hour ago, happysmileylady said:

I suspect that it's not so much about moral judgement as it is about concern for the woman's safety.  

Having said that, I do agree that it's not right.  When DH and I go out, he drives.  Which means he drinks a beer, but I might have 2 or 3 drinks.  It would really irritate me to find out that a bartender was intentionally making a weaker drink for me out of misplaced concern for my safety.  

that was my impression - and I don't drink.

while it might be the man with her is just the designated driver, there are so many reports of date rape, that it could just as easily be a guy getting a woman drunk so she'll be more compliant later.

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1 hour ago, gardenmom5 said:

that was my impression - and I don't drink.

while it might be the man with her is just the designated driver, there are so many reports of date rape, that it could just as easily be a guy getting a woman drunk so she'll be more compliant later.

Regardless she has no right to make that call. 

Apologies to the OP for derailing this thread.

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@Quill I’m late to the game... this is the course servers in my province (and it looks like other provinces) take: 

https://www.servingitright.com/course_intro.html

It was $30 online from the province’s website. It includes techniques to decline serving, as well as ways to identify who has had too much.

Edited by arctic_bunny
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1 hour ago, MEmama said:

Regardless she has no right to make that call. 

Apologies to the OP for derailing this thread.

I think it's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

too often I hear of cases where a woman got plastered, and was date raped - and afterwards other people are yelling "why didn't anyone do anything?"  (it's the people yelling who make the news.)

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I think I would also assume if a bartender cuts somebody off, there’s going to be zero tips.  Or at least substantially lower tips.  

There’s reason to make weaker drinks instead of cut someone off, I think.

I also am not sure, but to respond to Happysmilelady, I don’t think this is 2-3 drinks kind of thing.  

I think it’s people who are close to getting cut off.  

And then if people have tips as a portion of their wages, and maybe the waitress also wants her tips, there’s a lot of reason to have a gray area.  And maybe a lot of people are being tipped out, who knows.  

Just being devil’s advocate here I guess, I don’t care for it either, but I can see how it is a sensible choice, to start making weaker drinks.  

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3 minutes ago, Lecka said:

I think I would also assume if a bartender cuts somebody off, there’s going to be zero tips.  Or at least substantially lower tips.  

There’s reason to make weaker drinks instead of cut someone off, I think.

I also am not sure, but to respond to Happysmilelady, I don’t think this is 2-3 drinks kind of thing.  

I think it’s people who are close to getting cut off.  

And then if people have tips as a portion of their wages, and maybe the waitress also wants her tips, there’s a lot of reason to have a gray area.  And maybe a lot of people are being tipped out, who knows.  

Just being devil’s advocate here I guess, I don’t care for it either, but I can see how it is a sensible choice, to start making weaker drinks.  

I don't think weaker drinks is the answer.  I think treating the woman no differently than anyone else and cutting her off would be the better option.

There are a lot of people, men and women, who can get pretty toasty off of just two or three drinks, especially if they haven't eaten all day.  

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