Organizations may be responsible for patrons when alcohol is served. Forms of liquor liability include:
- Liability as a server – Serving people past the point of intoxication.
- Liability as an occupier – People, companies or any other organization that owns, has possession of or responsibility for premises are responsible for protecting persons on their premises from harm.
Anyone involved in the service of alcohol could be held liable for damages or injuries where alcohol is deemed to have been a contributing factor.
- Liability as an employer regarding employees consuming alcohol, such
as at staff parties.
- Liability as a sponsor of potentially dangerous activities.
- Use of excessive force – Security personnel cannot use unnecessary or excessive force to manage intoxicated patrons.
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1. Create policies and procedures with meaningful consequences and strictly enforce them. Some useful elements of a policy include:
Do not implement a written policy unless it will be strictly followed and enforced.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Ensuring that bartenders are experienced and do not serve obviously intoxicated persons.
- Offering food service.
- Encouraging taxi use.
- Providing reduced/subsidized taxi and hotel rates.
- Encouraging car pools and designated-driver programs.
- Reminding guests before and during the event not to drink and drive and of the other options available.
- Having several trained doormen/bouncers/spotters who remain sober and watch people leaving and encourage/insist on taxi use.
- Informing guests that intoxicated persons will be put into taxis.
- Displaying posters from Mothers Against Drinking and Driving (MADD), Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD) or similar organizations, outside and around alcohol consumption areas.
Some of these elements may be required by law.
2. Comply with all legislation regarding alcohol. (See Additional Resources.)
3. Ensure proper permits (to sell or serve alcohol) are obtained.
4. Train servers.
- Do not serve or sell alcohol to those under legal drinking age. The age will vary depending on the province or territory.
- Do not serve patrons past the point of intoxication.
- Ensure that servers understand government legislation pertaining to alcohol. Ensure that servers follow the organization’s policies and procedures. Make sure training is documented.
5. Implement a mandatory identification policy.
- Establish the forms of identification that will be accepted.
- Establish when identification needs to be shown. For example, require identification from anyone who is not obviously over the age of 30.
6. Display informational material on government alcohol-related policies and legislation.
- Inform customers that the business will abide by the rules set out by the government.
7. Implement inventory controls over alcohol.
- Implement measures to prevent theft (e.g., install security cameras,
hire additional personnel, etc.).
8. Regulate hours to sell or serve alcohol. Check with your local authority to determine minimum standards.
9. Use a facility-use agreement if you have rented out a location that you own and where renters may consume alcohol.
- Include a hold-harmless and indemnifying agreement that holds the
owner of the premises harmless and indemnifies the owner for losses
or damages resulting from the negligent use of the facilities or the
serving of alcohol. These clauses may help limit your liabilities. Consult
a lawyer for advice on contracts and agreements.
10. Obtain insurance coverage, possibly with higher limits (i.e., higher limits than organizations that do not serve/sell alcohol). Consult your insurance representative.
11. Consider implementing a Zero Tolerance Alcohol and Drug Policy (Click here for a sample.)
- Do not allow employees/volunteers to consume alcohol or drugs while working.
- Do not allow employees/volunteers to drink and drive.
- Do not allow employees/volunteers to work if they appear intoxicated.
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- Once a claim or potential claim is identified, immediately contact your insurance representative.
- Record all relevant information surrounding the potential claim like the names and contact information of any witnesses, staff or volunteers that were present or have information relevant to the incident. Have staff/volunteers complete an incident report with all relevant details.
- Refer any discussions with the claimant to your insurer. It is wise to tell employees and/or volunteers that they should not discuss liability with potential claimants and that they should NEVER ADMIT LIABILITY!!!
- Investigate potential causes and implement preventative measures.
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For more information on liquor liability for Special Events. Please note that the following list of resources is not comprehensive. There are other municipal, provincial and federal liquor regulations that need to be followed.
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