The reputation of a licensed alcohol-serving establishment relies heavily on the people who deal directly with the customers; the servers. Servers can most closely monitor an individual’s amount and rate of consumption. Therefore, as the alcohol server, you are the key to the prevention of excessive alcohol consumption.

“Visible intoxication” is a level of impairment that any person can observe. While servers of alcohol are not expected to know the consumer’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), they are required to recognize the behavioral warning signs of impairment. Servers must observe and talk with their customers to determine whether they are visibly intoxicated. Servers should always be observant of changes in behavior. As soon as visible intoxication is determined, service of alcoholic beverages should be stopped immediately. At this time you may wish to complete and file an Incident Documentation Form.
Visible intoxication can occur at a high or low SAC level, depending on a person’s tolerance to alcohol. A person with a high tolerance to alcohol may exceed the legal BAC driving limit before showing behavioral warning signs of visible intoxication, such as:


These are just a few of the many signs a person may show when becoming intoxicated. These signs, appearing independently, can often indicate the beginning stages of intoxication while a combination of signs is generally a fair indication of visible intoxication.

You can minimize a customer’s chance of becoming intoxicated by following some basic rules:

Size up your customer. What is his/her build (large, medium or small?) Is your customer male or female? Is he/she relaxed, tired, excited or feeling ill?
Ask subtle questions to promote conversation.
Measure and monitor the strength of the drinks.
Monitor the rate of consumption.
Have food available, either free or from a menu
Never serve a co-worker’s customer without first checking how much alcohol they’ve already consumed.
Remove the empty glass/bottle from the previous drink before serving another.
Slow down service when the customer is drinking or ordering rapidly.
A sound house rule is that “last call” means “last drink”. Serve only one drink. Do not stack drinks.
Closely monitor customers who are celebrating their 21St birthday.
Make a limit on the number of shots permitted to one customer.

It is important to identify the onset of intoxication before it develops into a problem situation. It is easier to slow down service during the early stages of consumption than to stop service when a customer has become visibly intoxicated.

Service should be slowed down without the customer becoming aware of it. Success in handling a customer depends largely on maintaining a friendly demeanor and paying attention to the customer’s needs. Slowing down service “buys time.” Only time will sober up your customer.

Even with the best intentions and most responsible serving procedures, you may still encounter a customer who shows behavioral signs which indicate visible intoxication. When this occurs, service of alcoholic beverages to that customer must be stopped immediately! This might mean having to remove the customer’s unfinished drink and refunding their money. Remember to be courteous, but firm. You may also find it helpful to enlist the help of a friend, but never embarrass a customer. If necessary, try scaring the customer with the risks of driving while intoxicated by using such comments as, “if you’re caught, you will be fined, lose your driver’s license and go to jail,’ and “if you insist on driving, 1 will have to notify the police.” If your efforts fail, it is recommended that you complete and file an Incident Documentation Form.
Arrange a safe way home for your customer by calling a taxi or asking a sober friend to drive him/her home. Remember, liability does not end when a customer leaves your establishment. In fact, that’s when its tragic consequences can begin.

A completed Incident Documentation Form is a written record of any unusual event that causes you to worry, such as; an accident, a fight, refusing service to a minor or intoxicated person, or a police call. The form can help build a defense in the event of the filing of a lawsuit or an insurance claim. It is your record of responsible service which could prove to be extremely useful for law enforcement, regulatory agencies or courts.

An Incident Documentation Form should be completed IMMEDIATELY following an incident. Do not wait until the end of a shift or the next day. Complete the form while the event is still fresh in the minds of the persons involved. Never
rely on memory. It is also important that you file the report and keep it for at least two years because under the Dram Shop Laws that is the period of time the parties involved have to file a lawsuit.

The following are some examples of when an Incident Documentation Form may be completed:

When service is refused to an intoxicated individual

Note basic information such as date, time, employee and manager on duty.
Include as much information about the incident as possible. Be complete in explaining the guest’s behavior and the reasons why service was refused.
When transportation is arranged for an intoxicated individual-

Note all basic information, including the type of transportation that was arranged.
Note the taxi company, driver’s name and time the person was picked up.

Leave a Reply