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.