Work Safety and Restaurants, Bars, and Alcohol

Employees in restaurants and bars face a variety of unique work stresses. Anyone who has served the public knows that customers can be demanding and even thoughtless in such a setting. In addition, customers and employees need to be protected from the dangers of food-borne disease. Another factor making this work environment fraught with potential danger is the free flow of alcohol.

Just as there are rules for employees that handle food, there are regulations for serving alcohol to the public. Some of the regulations differ from state to state, such as the hours that alcohol may be served. Others cover the type of establishments that serve alcohol. Most states require servers to check the identification of young patrons.

There is the also the question of liability. An establishment that serves a customer too many alcoholic beverages may be held partially liable for the actions of that customer caused by drunkenness. Some states are trying to enact so-called dram laws that make this liability even clearer to reduce the incidence of drunk driving. This can include property damage and suffering created by drunk-driving accidents. Most restaurants and bars carry liquor liability insurance for such eventualities. New laws could expose employees themselves to civil suits for failing to monitor the state of their customers when serving them alcohol.

Bartenders should advise patrons not to drive and offer them the service of a cab company. In addition, bartenders and other services should refuse to serve anyone visibly impaired by alcohol. It may also be useful to keep track of incidents in which a customer was refused service. Often these transactions are met with belligerence or worse. Establishment owners and the people that work for them should be free to exercise their judgment in these situations. They should also be protected from the capricious behavior of drunken patrons. Alcohol can be a pleasant compliment to any meal, but must be used in moderation. Servers are in an ambiguous position. They should take steps to safeguard themselves and others.