Being able to serve your restaurant patrons alcohol can be a big source of revenue for your business. Drinks are an integral part of social dining, so a bar or a drinks menu can also be an attraction for would-be customers. To legally serve alcohol, however, you need to maintain your liquor license. Losing it could mean losing a lot of customers.
Here are some mistakes you must avoid to make sure you don't end up losing your liquor license.
1. Serving drinks to people who are already drunk.
One of the fastest ways to lose your legal ability to serve drinks is to serve them to people who are noticeably intoxicated. Not only is it dangerous to someone's health, but individuals who are openly drunk are hazardous to the public at large. If a person who is drunk is served more drinks at your restaurant and that person causes an accident that injures another person, your business could be sued in many states under "dram shop laws" for social host liability.
2. Serving drinks to minors.
Because there is a legal drinking age in every state, serving minors is definitely outside the parameters of your liquor license. To avoid any possibility of serving a minor, make sure your business has a strict policy for:
- checking every person for an ID before they can order alcohol. Teach staff about recognizing fake IDs, including minors using the ID of a parent or sibling.
- educating every server on the laws surrounding liquor consumption.
- not permitting older customers to order drinks for younger ones. In a bar, this is not often a problem because you ID at the door. At restaurants, it's a little bit more fuzzy. You want to protect your establishment from every being even slightly culpable for intoxicating a minor.
3. Developing a reputation for poor conduct.
Another way to lose your license is a record of bad conduct. Occasionally, you might have an intoxicated patron who causes a stir or acts violently. A single incident may not be cause for concern. But if people often get into bar fights, rowdy behaviors, or public displays of indecency, especially if the police have to get involved, it calls into questions whether or not your business is providing alcohol in a responsible manner.
Have a zero-tolerance policy for any violence and openly lewd behavior in your establishment, especially if you are a restaurant that serves families and minors.
4. Drinking in non-permitted areas.
Finally, follow the restrictions of your license. In places like hotels, restaurants, or convention centers, drinks should be contained in designated areas. For example, if drinks are served at the hotel bar, guests should not be allowed to take them into the lobby, stairwell, gym, or other public use areas. Some restaurants only serve drinks at the bar for this reason. Make sure that all your employees know where drinks may or may not be taken, and redirect guests who do not know to use the designated areas.
5. Selling after hours.
Many states have curfews for serving alcohol. These curfews are in place to help prevent drunk driving and night-time intoxication that can lead to public injury and increased crime. Many restaurants and bars cannot begin serving until a certain time and they must close within a certain time. These times can vary by state and city. As a precaution, you may want to stop furnishing drinks about 15 minutes before closing to make sure patrons have enough to time to finish their current drinks before heading home.
For more information about gaining and keeping your liquor license, contact a lawyer, like one from Arizona Liquor Industry Consultants, in your area to explain the specific laws of your state.