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Safe Alcohol Programs

Q: What are some best practices to maintain a safe alcohol program that will reduce our club’s exposure to liquor-related incidents/claims?

A: The key to protecting a private club from claims relating to liquor liability is awareness, training and timely action. Overindulgence of alcoholic beverages at a club can cause accidents, with devastating results. Taking the time to educate and train employees and implementing an Alcohol Awareness and Service Program can reduce your exposure to these liquor-related incidents and thus control claims.

Develop an Alcohol Awareness and Service Program and use it to train employees regarding the service of alcoholic beverages. Key points of a program include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Alcoholic beverages will only be served to members and guests who are of legal age.
  • No liquor will knowingly be sold or consumed on club premises by any person who, in the opinion of appropriate staff, is or appears to be intoxicated.
  • The club has the right to refuse service to members or guests who put themselves or others in danger as a result of the consumption of alcohol.
  • Club staff is charged with the duty of enforcing the Alcohol Awareness and Service Program and should have complete support of the club board or owners.
  • The club will allow the guest to remain until the intoxication level is reduced to a safe level or another form of transportation is secured.

Intoxication can result in serious injury or even death to a member, client, guest or member of the public. Serious consequences can result in legal action against your club. Not only can this have a serious financial impact for your club, it could also permanently damage the club’s reputation. 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. This can include club officials, servers, and/or employees.

Proper training and having written policies in place can help to mitigate a problem before it occurs.

Controls & Preventative Measures

An Alcohol Awareness and Service Program can only be effective if it is reviewed regularly and practiced daily by all employees. Do not implement a written policy unless it will be strictly followed and enforced.

The following suggestions may assist the managers and employees in the implementation of the program:

  • !Train servers on how to handle underage and/or intoxicated patrons.
  • Train servers to track how much alcohol guests have consumed and to know the alcohol content of different drinks. Encourage communication among members, employees and managers to report instances of intoxication.
  • Establish a relationship with a dependable cab company and post the company’s telephone number at the bar area. Identify your club’s special needs such as tournaments, special events, and banquets.
  • Give a third party, such as club security, authority for removing a guest if the person is obviously intoxicated. Implement inventory controls and measures to prevent theft of alcoholic beverages.

How to Handle an Incident

Clubs using an Alcohol Awareness and Service Program, with trained employees, may still face an alcohol-related incident. The key to handling an incident is to react quickly and document your actions.

Document the details of incidents such as refusing alcohol service, arranging transportation for a guest, refusing the false ID of a minor, and calling police to your establishment.

An incident report can be used internally to assess your alcohol service and can be helpful in the event of a lawsuit. Write a report for all incidents involving alcohol. This step should be taken immediately after an event occurs, while the facts are still fresh. Include in the report the date, time, server, and manager involved and list the names of the guests and employees who witnessed the incident and physical descriptions of all intoxicated guests.

Important Notice: The information and suggestions presented by RPS Bollinger in this Loss Control Bulletin are for your consideration in your loss prevention efforts. They are not intended to be complete or definitive in identifying all hazards associated with your club, in preventing workplace accidents, or in complying with any safety related, or other laws or regulations. You are encouraged to alter them to fit the specific hazards of your club and to have your legal counsel review all of your plans and club’s policies.

Tom Walker is area executive vice president of RPS Bollinger – Sports & Leisure. He serves as the program manager, with oversight for all operations, sales, financial performance and key broker, industry association and carrier relationships. He has served on several club boards and committees, and is a recognized authority on club insurance issues. He can be reached at 800-446-5311 (ext. 8098) or [email protected].