When Enough is Enough at the Bar

drunk driving accidents liquor liability drunk driving crashes liquor law Dram Shop Law drunk drivers

Getting together with friends, co-workers and family at a restaurant, bar or tavern can be fun, especially during the holidays or other special times. What may not be so fun is when someone drinks too much, thus becoming visibly intoxicated. Bartenders are responsible for cutting off inebriated customers because they can be liable for over-serving. What you need to know about Dram Shop Law.

Why Visibly Intoxicated Customers Need to be Cut Off

One of the downsides of bartending is having to tell a visibly intoxicated customer that it is time to call it quits for the night.

Letting a visibly intoxicated person continue to drink could lead to:

  • Alcohol poisoning, a condition that occurs when alcohol is consumed at very high levels. While the threshold varies for each individual, approximately six people die each day from this condition. (CDC)
  • Driving under the influence. The inebriated person could get behind the wheel of a car and cause an accident that seriously injures him/herself or other innocents. Drunk drivers are distracted, unable to concentrate and drive erratically thereby in 2020 causing 11,654 alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths. (NHTSA)

In most states, bars and similar establishments are liable for over-serving customers. In fact, 38 states (including Missouri) have Dram Shop laws that relate to serving those who are intoxicated. Should a bar continue to serve an intoxicated customer who then causes an accident after leaving, the bar itself could share the liability.

In essence, cutting off drunk customers is not just a policy of the establishment, it is the law.

When you have questions, we are here to help. Call us at (877) 284-6600.

Dram Shop Law

In general, a bar can be liable for over-serving alcohol if the establishment knew or should have known that the customer was so intoxicated that more alcohol would cause danger to him/herself or others.

Critical factors in Missouri dram shop law are

  • By the drink
  • On the premises
  • Proven by clear and convincing evidence and
  • Knowingly served intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person

Be sure to look at your own state’s Dram Shop Law.

Intoxicated Person at Bar visibly intoxicated inebriated customers holidays bartenders cutting off dram shop lawHow can a bartender or server know when someone is visibly intoxicated? Signs include, but not limited to:·

  • Slurring of speech
  • Acting confused
  • Having trouble standing up or walking
  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Negative or aggressive interactions with others
  • Overly loud, boisterous or animated behavior
  • Bothering other guests

Tips for Cutting Someone off

  • Make sure that your manager, other bartenders and wait staff know that you are cutting a customer off so that they do not serve the person afterward.
  • Suggest that it is time to call it quits for the night. Lean in to speak with the customer so that others don’t hear the conversation. Let him or her know you are not comfortable serving another drink.
  • Explain the situation, that s/he has had too much to drink and that you have a legal obligation when it comes to over-serving intoxicated customers. It is as much for his or her safety as it is for everyone else.
  • Talk with the person’s friends, those that are with him or her. Make sure that no one buys a drink for the intoxicated person after you have cut them off.
  • Be polite, firm and direct that you will not serve the customer any more drinks. Explain that this is not just a company policy; it is the law. You are responsible for what happens to them after they leave whether it is an injury to that person or another.
  • Ask if the person needs transportation and offer to arrange a taxi, Uber or other car service. Ask him to give his car keys to a friend for safekeeping..
  • If the person gets violent or aggressive, ask him to leave, call security or call the police.



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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published December 18, 2019. It was reviewed on November 9, 2022 and updated for content and accuracy.

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