Halloween is almost here and many bars, nightclubs and other licensed establishments are getting creative with their events and marketing of alcoholic beverages.
If you’re having a costume contest at your establishment, be careful what you give away as prizes. I just read about a winery whose Halloween bash includes a “frightfully exciting” costume contest, with the winner receiving a bottle of wine.
Things could get more frightening than they planned if the ABC finds out. While retailers are allowed to sponsor contests at their premises and give prizes to contestants, there are some restrictions:
First, the prizes can’t be alcoholic beverages.
Second, the contest can’t be conditioned on the purchase, sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Third, the contest does not involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages (e.g., beer pong).
Any one of these three issues would be a violation of Rule 106(l)(1) of the Business and Professions Code and could result in the ABC taking disciplinary action against the licensee.
As to drink specials, an establishment cannot offer complimentary or free alcoholic beverages, but may offer packages that include alcoholic beverages, provided the total charge to the customer covers their cost of acquisition (to prevent a free goods violation).
Nor can they offer alcoholic beverages at “two for the price of one, “buy one, get one free,” “all you can drink,” or in any other manner where a patron is required to buy more than one drink at a time in order to received a reduced price.
Stay safe and legal at Halloween and always.
Over 540 California law enforcement agencies in 41 counties will be cracking down on drunk driving starting this Friday, August 21 through September 7, 2009. These agencies are part of the AVOID Program, which focuses on increased drunk driving patrols during holiday periods when drinking and driving is at its highest. According to the California Highway Patrol, 1,489 people were killed in alcohol-related collisions in 2007 (the latest statistics available).
The AVOID Program is funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the Business, Transportation & Housing Agency. Funding pays for officer overtime hours, reassignment, and public awareness campaigns during the increased enforcement periods.
The program’s message is: The only way to AVOID the county’s law enforcement officers is to drive sober.
The 41 counties now taking part in the AVOID Program are:
|Alameda County||Butte County||Colusa County|
|Contra Costa County||Fresno County||Glenn County|
|Imperial County||Kern County||Kings County|
|Lake County||Los Angeles County||Madera County|
|Marin County||Merced County||Monterey County|
|Napa County||Nevada County||Orange County|
|Placer County||Riverside County||Sacramento County|
|San Bernardino County||San Diego County||San Francisco County|
|San Joaquin County||San Luis Obispo County||San Mateo County|
|Santa Barbara County||Santa Clara County||Santa Cruz County|
|Shasta County||Siskiyou County||Solano County|
|Sonoma County||Stanislaus County||Sutter County|
|Tehama County||Tulare County||Ventura County|
|Yolo County||Yuba County|
If you have a liquor license, monitor your guests’ drinking. Don’t let them drink too much or too fast. If they do become intoxicated, be sure to arrange a safe ride for the person. That way you protect them AND your business.
In 2008, the California Highway Patrol arrested 1,684 DUI drivers over the 4th of July holiday.
This year, the CHP will have all available officers on patrol from 6 PM on Friday, July 3rd to Midnight on Sunday, July 5th. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and local law enforcement agencies will also be out in force.
According to the ABC’s spokesperson John Carr, “We have ABC Investigators working closely with law enforcement agencies throughout California. We will participate in DUI Prevention efforts at DUI checkpoints, saturation patrols and of course, investigators will be checking locations that sell alcohol to ensure compliance.”
With all this enforcement going on, it’s important to have everything in place to protect your liquor license and keep things under control.
Here are some ways to reduce your risk of having problems and keep your customers safe, too:
1. Don’t serve alcohol to guests who are under age 21. Check ID on anyone who looks under 30 years old. Remember, you are never required to sell alcohol to anyone. Contrary to what a guest may say, a person does not have a legal right to buy alcohol. But you certainly have the legal right to refuse service to anyone who cannot produce adequate written evidence of their age (Section 25659 CA Business & Professions Code).
2. Pace your guests’ drinking. Don’t serve drinks too fast. Serve only one drink at a time. This prevents guests from becoming intoxicated. In a friendly way, persuade them to slow down or try a nonalcoholic alternative.
3. Don’t serve anyone who is obviously intoxicated, even if they’re not driving. It’s against the law. Someone is obviously intoxicated when the average person can plainly see that the person is intoxicated. In other words, they look and act drunk.
The classic signs of intoxication include slurred speech, staggered gait and red watery eyes. Some other signs include drinking more or faster than usual, being loud, annoying others, complaining about the strength of drinks, being argumentative, slow and deliberate movements, fumbling with money, and droopy eyelids.
4. Keep your promotions safe and legal. The law says you can’t offer free drinks or anything free in connection with the sale of alcohol. If you’re offering free snacks, they must be available to anyone, whether or not that person is buying alcohol. Two-for-the-price-of-one, buy-one get-one-free and all you can drink specials are illegal promotions.
According to industry consultant David Townsend, “The best way that I know of to increase sales without increasing liability is through event marketing vs. cheap drink promotions. In other words, to increase customer counts with great events, great entertainment, a great experience, etc., rather than trying to increase consumption per customer with drink inducements….”
Townsend says that by being creative, you can have a profitable product that doesn’t get people intoxicated.
5. Offer food and alternative beverages. Have a good selection of food and alternative beverages available. The best snacks are greasy, fatty, high-protein foods because they longer to digest. This slows the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. Nachos, meatballs, pizza, chicken wings, etc. are all good choices. Avoid salty snacks because these cause people to drink more.
Offer drinks other than alcohol. Include teas, lemonade, sparkling ciders and more. Get creative!
6. Safe rides. If a guest does become intoxicated, make all reasonable efforts to prevent them from driving. Be friendly, but firm. Call a taxi, call a friend or get them a safe ride home.
7. Meet with your staff before the holiday weekend. Remind them what to look for and what’s at risk. For the server, an ABC violation in California can cost $250-1,000 or more. According to ABC Investigator John Hall, some servers are being fined up to $3,250 because judges are throwing in court costs, penalties and enhancements. Servers can also receive up to six months in county jail.
In addition, the business owner can be fined $750-$20,000 or have their liquor license suspended or revoked. Hardly worth it.
These are just a few tips to help prevent underage drinking and intoxication—the two greatest risk factors for liquor liability. A few simple efforts on your part can prevent problems, protect your liquor license and even save a life.