Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Who's Responsible?

Dozens of liquor licence charges laid against a Muskoka club and its staff following a crash that killed three young men are prompting the industry to look closer at its obligations when it comes to serving alcohol.

The group of four were apparently served 31 drinks in a few hours. One thing about a bar in cottage country...you can bet that most of the patrons got there by car, and somebody is driving those cars. We all know drinking and driving is criminal and dangerous and we shouldn't do it. Are the bartenders and servers partially responsible for the crash? What about the directors of the company, some of whom may never have been in the bar? If the bar is a corporation run by a board of directors, are they any less responsible than if it was owned by a local guy who lived down the road and knew the patrons?

This is a tough issue. Where should a bartender draw the line? Should that line be different if the bartender knows for certain the patron isn't driving? I bet you could go to many bars in this city at any time and see people being served who are showing the effects of alcohol. Some people show those effects more obviously than others. In a busy place, is it reasonable for servers to monitor the consumption of their customers.

Those of you who have worked as bartenders or wait staff, please weigh in here. Does responsibility fall completely on the drinkers or should the bar staff and owners share in it?


Biddie said...

Tough question.
I think that for the most part, the responsibility falls upon the bar patron. Some people can drink more than others and still function. I once had about 50 jello shooters at a family gathering. I can drink like a fish and still walk, talk, whatever. Other people can have two drinks and be falling down drunk. How do you know when to cut someone off?
The guy that gets behind the wheel is the one responsible...BUT, I would never watch a drunk drive away. I would take his/her keys.
Not so easy to answer afterall.
(Hi from Kitchener, btw)

tshsmom said...

Here in MN servers have to take classes in when not to serve a patron. Servers have also been sued when an accident occurs. This has made it harder for bars to find reliable help.

This can be a sticky situation when people have been bar-hopping. They can have 5 drinks at one bar and 1 drink at the next bar. If they get in an accident, it's the last bar that gets sued.

I do think that bar owners should serve responsibly, but I also think the patron shouldn't get off scott free if an accident occurs.

Candy Minx said...

We have to take courses in Ontario for bartending. It's called "smart serve". I have my smart serve card in my wallet right now. In theory you need it it in order to work as a bartender.

Bartenders HAVE been legally and morally responsible for their clients drinking for years in Ontario. It is dead serious.

It doesn't mean a patron doesn't get over served though...very bar overserves to some degree. And the judgment on serving is related to driving but not solely. If a patron staggers and falls...and I've sen it happen many times...they can be held responsible. Some nasty cuts and injuries can happen walking drunk or riding a bike drunk. Not to mention bar fights. No bartender...legal responsibility or not...wants a patron hurt or wants to deal with a bar fight.

You can take the course that is required..and it does help to educate a server to soem degree...but in real life...a bartender needs a few years experience. And to work with other bartenders who have lots of experience. Bartending is a much more tricky job than it may appear from the outside. When someone enters my bar I am measuring everything about them, I'm basically acting like an FBI profiler heh heh...but without the suit...and if you show any attitude or any sense of such an accounting...you'll lose customers.

There are a lot of interesting personality traits a good bartender needs to be...and you can't really fake it...you sort of really have to be sincerely interested in people. You need to like people, and find them fascinating. You need to read body language. A bartender will often chat briefly with a customer when they first come in...it's not about friendliness, it's about assessing heir coordination, state of mind. You're reading their eye movements and taking in their vibe. And you have to do it while being completely cool and not like a customs officer.

With cops and border control, they can look hateful and unwlecoming and suspicous...that is actually a good quality in such a job. It would be the kiss of death in bartending...yet you have to use many of the same skills. If you're an asshole...you'll lose customers. You're trying to measure if they have already been drinking...have they just been fired or dumped...are they high on cocaine, or worse, horse tranks...are they psycho (and often they are but thats not a legal reason to not serve them dammit!...just a factor...) how much do they weigh?...stuff like that...

By the way...I've been meaning to tell you...there is a book somewhat relevant to this topic called "Waiter Rant"....

The author had a sucessful blog under that title and was able to remain anonymous while writing an expose...then he got a book deal (oh to have a blog that serves up a book deal huh?)

Anthony Bourdan writes on the books front cover...

"The front-of-the-house version of Kitchen Confidential: a painfully funny true account of the waiter's life. You will never look at your waiter the same way again-and you'll never tip less than 20%"

Anonymous said...

in Australia it is illegal to serve someone who is very drunk. All bar attendants here have to have their RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol)certificate.

my youngest son tends bar and he is issued with a microphone that allows him to flick a switch so the club bouncers can listen in on conversations he is having with drunk customers. they escort overly drunk patrons off the premises