Bartender / Alcohol Server Resources
A few resources to help prepare you to be a bartender / mixologist or server:
- How to Become a Bartender
- Top 15 Things to Remember Before Becoming a Bartender
- How to Find the Best Bartending Jobs.
- How Much do Bartenders Make?
- Mandatory Alcohol Server Training — MAST — for Washington State alcohol servers, Class 12 and Class 13 Permit Holders
- Alcohol and its Effects on the Body
- How to calculate Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
- Mixing substances: Alcohol and other drugs
- Alcohol and Washington State Law
- Minors and Checking ID
- Liquor Liability in Washington State
- Dealing with apparently intoxicated persons (AIPs), sometimes referred to as drunk people.
- Tips to cut off a customer and discontinue alcohol service.
Alcohol and Washington State Law
We at Alcohol Liability Education Services (ALES) have been conducting alcohol server classes throughout Washington State since the law passed in 1995 requiring all who serve alcohol to the public to have a license. Keeping it simple, we serve only Washington.
The 1995 Washington State legislature passed the Alcohol Server Education law. The law states, in part, that any persons who serve, mix, sell, or supervise the service of alcohol for consumption at an on-premises retail licensed facility must obtain a permit to do so as a regular requirement of his or her employment.
Washington State law requires that the Liquor and Cannabis Board suspend the MAST permit at the request of the Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Child Support of any non-custodial parent who is at least six months in arrears on child support payments. If you have delinquent child support payments for more than six months, please contact the WSLCB or DSHS, Division of Child Support.
Alcohol and its Effects on the Body
Characteristics of Alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant drug. The alcohol in drinks is called ethyl alcohol. In quite low concentrations it can serve as a stimulant of some functions, but as the concentration increases, the effect is continuously more depressant, with effects moving from lack of coordination to sedation, stupor, coma, and finally death.
If consumed in moderation, some claim that alcohol may have positive effects on one’s health. Some studies indicate that moderate alcohol consumption might actually reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. On the other hand, when alcohol is consumed in excess, it can adversely affect virtually every part of the human body. Alcohol affects the Central Nervous System, particularly the brain. With relatively low blood alcohol concentrations, a deterioration of higher functions such as language begins. As the BAC increases, the deterioration moves on to autonomic functions such as breathing.
Alcohol impairs the sensory transmissions between the brain and various parts of the body, resulting in slowed reaction time, slurred speech, and loss of equilibrium. Alcohol also weakens a person’s hearing and vision. Eye coordination and peripheral vision may be affected and binocular vision is significantly affected. With sufficient blood alcohol concentrations, a person can lose complete control of voluntary muscles, resulting in total paralysis. Sometimes involuntary muscles are also affected, resulting in a loss of breathing and death.
Alcohol does not require digestion before it is absorbed into the bloodstream. A small amount is absorbed through the mouth, some is diffused directly through the stomach wall, and the majority of alcohol is absorbed through the small intestine. When alcohol gets to the liver through the bloodstream it is acted upon by enzymes and coenzymes, and it is eventually oxidized to carbon dioxide and water. The liver metabolizes approximately one drink per hour in the average healthy person. Intoxication occurs when a person consumes alcohol faster than the liver can metabolize it.
Alcohol has many effects on the human brain, both positive and negative. It relieves anxiety and inhibitions, can promote fellowship, and can help turn ordinary events into festive occasions. But like most other drugs, alcohol has its darker side. Taken in excess, it tends to add to, rather than subtract from, the sum of human misery. Excessive alcohol consumption impairs judgment, slows reactions, lessens self-control and exaggerates emotions. After consuming alcohol, drivers often believe they have driven particularly well. However, this is not true. Trained observers have detected deterioration in the driver’s performance when compared to tests before alcohol was consumed.
Process of Elimination
Alcohol is eliminated from the body by two mechanisms: metabolism and excretion. Metabolism is the most prominent, accounting for greater than 90% of the alcohol which is removed by the oxidation of ethyl alcohol into its by-products. This oxidation takes time.
Pregnant Women – Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The law does not intrude on a woman’s choice to drink or not drink during pregnancy. As a server you are not a health or legal professional and you are not aware of the medical advice a woman may or may not be receiving. As an establishment, it is recommended that a thoughtful house policy is conceived and legal advice sought in drafting such a policy for drinking pregnant women. A solid house policy can lend clarity and direction for your staff. The only legal requirement concerning pregnant drinking women is signage: signs warning of the risks while drinking during pregnancy must be posted and prominent.
Alcoholism is a disease caused by chronic excessive drinking and is characterized by the alcoholic’s “loss of control” over his or her drinking. It is estimated that one in ten drinkers are alcoholics. Since alcoholics have a high tolerance for alcohol, they often do not display many visible signs of intoxication. In this situation, it will be important for you to pay close attention to the amount of alcohol being consumed and to look very closely for physical signs of intoxication. We recognize that some of you may feel close to some of your guests and may genuinely care about their health and well-being. However, we recommend that you leave the diagnoses of alcoholism up to professionals in the drug and alcohol treatment industry. Denial is one of the key characteristics of alcoholism and a diagnosis may likely result in a problem situation for you, your employer, and your guest.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
A person is considered legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol content is .08% or higher, which means that for every 1,000 milliliters of blood, the body contains 8/10ths of a milliliter of alcohol. 12 ounces of beer has about the same amount of alcohol as 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor. To determine the amount of alcohol in various liquors, simply divide the proof by two. For example, if Vodka is 80 proof, that means it contains 40% ethyl alcohol (80/2=40). These equivalents must be looked at carefully when considering alcohol service. For example, most micro beers are served in 16 oz. glasses and have much higher alcohol concentrations. Some national brands of beer contain 3.2% alcohol, while some of the specialty micro brews can contain as much as 8% alcohol. The body can burn about one drink per hour, or approximately .015% alcohol content per hour.
On average: One drink = 1 1/2 oz. of 80 proof liquor or 12 oz. of beer or 5 oz. of table wine.
The tables above show how elevated blood alcohol concentrations can affect one’s ability to drive. With a BAC of .02%, the average person’s ability to track moving objects and do tasks requiring divided attention may suffer. With a BAC of .05%, these effects are significantly more severe and vision is impaired. With a BAC of .08%, a driver is 3 to 4 times more likely to crash than a sober driver. Reaction times slow even more. A person stopped with this BAC would be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). If a driver’s BAC reaches .1%, he or she is 6 times more likely to crash. With a BAC of .15%, a driver is 25 times more likely to crash.
Women are 8 to 10% more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. For example, a 120-pound woman is likely to become legally intoxicated if she consumes just two drinks in an hour. Once you are able to estimate someone’s BAC, you are in a much better position to recognize intoxication, refuse service and remove a drink with confidence. Keep in mind that it is illegal to serve alcohol to someone showing “apparent signs of intoxication.”
Differences in Alcohol Absorption
Factors that influence how alcohol will affect a person include: body size, age, gender, physical condition, amount of food eaten, and other drugs or medicines taken. The larger the person is, the more alcohol it takes to reach a given BAC. This is partly because a larger person has more blood. Another factor is body fat. According to Stanford University, fat does not absorb alcohol as well as lean muscle mass, so the more muscular a person is, the more alcohol it will take to increase the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream. If a man and a woman weighed the same and drank the same amount, generally the woman would have a higher BAC. This is because women often have more body fat and less body fluids to dilute the alcohol. According to Stanford University, women also produce less of the enzymes that break down alcohol. In addition, oral contraceptives can retard the metabolization of alcohol. Many people seem more susceptible to the effects of alcohol when they are fatigued, under stress and/or have recently been or are ill. The faster alcohol is ingested, the faster the BAC increases.
Alcohol is absorbed much more slowly when there is food in the stomach. On any empty stomach, alcohol reaches the brain in a few minutes. After a full meal, it can take up to six hours to be absorbed. Always recommend fatty foods such as cheese, nuts, and fried foods when serving alcohol. These foods are harder for the body to digest which results in alcohol being absorbed more slowly.
Other factors that affect rates of alcohol absorption include other drugs or medicines being taken. This is not just oral contraceptives and can affect both men and women. The kind of mixer used in a drink will also play a part in the degree of absorption. Carbonated mixers will facilitate alcohol absorption faster than non-carbonated mixers. The only way to expel alcohol from one’s body, thereby lowering one’s BAC, is to spend the time that it takes for your liver to do its work.
DUIs Under .08% — or Less!
As we discussed above, .08% blood alcohol content is the level at which drivers will normally be considered driving under the influence, but it’s also possible to get a DUI under the .08 limit if the driver is showing signs of impairment.
Persons with Disabilities
Sometimes people with disabilities may exhibit behavior that is used to identify intoxicated guests. Get to know your guests to ensure any refusal of service is based on their state of sobriety, and not a disability. For example, some guests with hearing impairments or facial palsies may exhibit slurred speech, while other guests with Multiple Sclerosis or other muscular-skeletal disorders may have a staggered walk. Federal and state law prohibits discrimination against a person due to a disability. The rule of thumb should be “assume nothing.” Be yourself and use the same eye contact and body language you would with your other guests. And remember, just because a person has a disability, does not mean they can be served if they are intoxicated.
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS
Mixing Alcohol and Other Drugs
Alcohol should not be mixed with other drugs. When alcohol and other drugs are used together, the body metabolizes the alcohol first. The other drugs stay in the body at full strength which may accumulate to dangerous levels.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board may take administrative action against licensees who engage in criminal activity or knowingly permit employees or customers to engage in criminal activity on the licensed premises.
Mixing Marijuana and Alcohol
Marijuana and alcohol are the most commonly mixed drugs, especially since marijuana was legalized in Washington for recreational use. However, mixing the two drugs is no less dangerous. Used in tandem, the effects of each are greatly magnified.
Consuming cannabis and alcohol at the same time can cause nausea and/or vomiting, or result in psychological problems such as panic, anxiety or paranoia. Some people can even experience psychotic symptoms.
Evidence suggests that drinking alcohol can cause a faster absorption of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis that causes intoxication. Marijuana and alcohol can also be antagonistic and have an opposing effect; marijuana naturally lessens the gag reflex, while the biological impulse of the body is to expel an over consumption of alcohol through the mouth. As a result, the body may not be able to optimally regulate toxicity levels.
Alcohol and stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines, are antagonistic drugs. This means that they have opposite effects on the Central Nervous System (CNS), but one does not nullify the effects of the other. For example, coffee does not sober up an intoxicated guest. Cocaine will tell your Central Nervous System to act up, while alcohol will tell it to calm down. These confusing signals often result in your CNS shutting down completely, resulting in death. The physical signs of a person under the influence of cocaine are: irritability, red eyes and dilated pupils, red area under nose, runny nose, frequent sniffing, white powder or debris on nasal hairs, highly alert behavior, quick, jerky movements, very rapid talking and breathing, frequent long, deep breaths, and walking rapidly.
Alcohol and Energy Drinks
There has been a growing concern about mixing alcohol and energy drinks, which often contain high amounts of the stimulant caffeine. Medical and scientific research suggests that combining alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine may increase the rate of alcohol-related injury and risky behavior. There have been many unfortunate episodes with young people becoming hospitalized and nearly dying after combining energy drinks with alcohol. As a result, a ban was passed on pre-mixed alcohol energy drinks in Washington State in November, 2010.
When a person has consumed too much alcohol, they will naturally feel fatigued since alcohol is a depressant. Stimulant drinks can mask this natural response and the drinker may not know how impaired they really are. This can be especially dangerous in combination with other activities such as driving. People who use alcohol and stimulants together are likely to drink more before feeling the effects of alcohol. Sadly, young people are not only the group that is most adversely affected by and most often abusing the alcohol-caffeine combination; they are also the target demographic for companies that sell alcohol energy drinks.
The many pre-mixed energy drink products that are now banned in Washington State include Four Loko; a 23.5 ounce can of Four Loko, which is 12% alcohol, is comparable to drinking five or six beers. Other problems can result from combining alcohol and caffeine. According to the National Institutes of Health, caffeine can boost heart rate and blood pressure, causing heart palpitations; mixing it with alcohol may make heart rhythm problems worse. Also, both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, meaning each dehydrate the body. Thus, consuming caffeine with alcohol does not curtail a hangover. Despite the misconception, caffeine actually INTENSIFIES hangovers BECAUSE IT INCREASES dehydration. In contrast, other mixers will keep the body hydrated which will decrease the negative effects of alcohol.
Alcohol magnifies the effects of heroin, sedatives, barbiturates, and other depressant drugs which may cause severe depression and/or slowing of vital functions. When alcohol is consumed with other depressant drugs, the depressant effect is five times that of either drug taken alone. The physical signs of a person under the influence of heroin are: red eyes, non-reactive and droopy pupils and eyelids, a sleepy appearance, slow or slurred speech, nodding of the head, licking of lips, slow breathing, fresh needle pricks, itching skin, and a slow or staggered walk.
Over the Counter
When alcohol is mixed with over the counter drugs such as Advil or Tylenol, it may cause gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. This problem is most severe when alcohol is mixed with aspirin.
Liquor licensees’ and their employees are responsible for the operation of their businesses in compliance with the liquor laws and regulations. As an alcohol server, it is important to recognize signs of people being under the influence of any intoxicant, as it can be harmful for their health and it is also against the law to serve them alcohol. Also, any illegal activities such as drug trafficking or use of illegal drugs in the liquor licensed premises or on the adjacent property are strictly prohibited and the licensees and employees must take corrective action immediately. We discuss this more fully below.
Drug Trafficking Patterns
Drug trafficking patterns include: frequent telephone calls for a customer, frequent trips to the restroom or outside with other customers, constant customer traffic to a particular table, consuming little or no liquor, people who have friends waiting for them regularly, and money and/or small packages being exchanged.
Minors and Checking ID in Washington State
State law RCW 66.44.270 states that it is unlawful for any person to sell, give, otherwise supply or permit consumption of liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years on any liquor licensed premises. A violation of this subsection is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, up to $5,000 monetary fine or both. The WSLCB may have your MAST permit or liquor license suspended or revoked or fine you and your employer. We will discuss how illegal alcohol sales could result in civil lawsuits in the next module.
Must Be 21 Years of Age
One must be at least 21 years old to be sold or served alcoholic beverages in Washington state. There is no sale to, possession, or consumption of alcohol by persons under 21. To ensure you are selling alcohol to someone of a legal age, you will need to check their ID.
Acceptable Forms of ID in Washington State
These forms of identification are acceptable in Washington:
- Driver’s license, including a temporary license, instruction permit, or state ID card, issued by any U.S. State, U.S. Territory, District of Columbia or Canadian Province. Some of the new temporary driver’s licenses or ID cards have no photo in them; these are unacceptable.
- U.S. Military ID. This includes active duty, reserve, retired and/or dependent
- Merchant Marine ID issued by the Coast Guard
- Washington State Tribal Enrollment card
- Official passport issued by any nation.
To be valid, ID must not have expired, and show date of birth, signature and photo. However, some of the Tribal Enrollment cards don’t have expiration dates and the military cards have embedded signature invisible to the naked eye.
A Washington state ID card has the following characteristics:
- A ghost portrait (a faint version of the bearer’s image) appears in the bottom right of the card.
- Printed data overlaps the ghost image.
- The first two numerals in the driver’s license number and the last two digits of the date of birth will add up to 100. (For example: 27+73=100) This is known as the “100 rule” that applies to every valid Washington ID.
- A foil printed tree appears at the bottom of the ID.
- There is a fine line pattern on the front of the identification.
- Holograms of the word Washington and the state seal repeat across the front in ultraviolet ink that will illuminate under ultraviolet light. The state seal also appears on the back.
While doing compliance checks, Washington State found that when minors were served, in most cases ID was examined, but the customers’ age was miscalculated. That is why it is important to pay extra attention when you get a vertical ID; they are only issued to those under 21, so it makes it much easier for busy servers to quickly identify those under age.
The date at which an individual turns 21 is also clearly noted on the ID to help with legal alcohol sales, or the date they turn 18 to help determine legal tobacco sales. When an individual turns 21, they can voluntarily update their ID to one with a horizontal format.
New Temporary ID
The new Washington state temporary license is printed on a letter-size (8 ½ X 11’’) sheet of paper and will not include a photo unless the driver is applying for a Commercial Driver License. The new temporary license does not require a signature. The temporary license by itself is not acceptable to purchase alcohol. However, if it’s combined with an expired ID, it may be accepted.
Checking Washington ID
When checking identification, ask the customer to remove the ID from the wallet and observe the following:
- Is the ID card one of the forms of acceptable ID?
- Does the ID show the person’s DATE OF BIRTH, SIGNATURE, PHOTOGRAPH and EXPIRATION DATE? If the ID has an expiration date, it cannot be expired.
- These four items are what all the acceptable forms of ID have in common. Therefore, the ID is unacceptable if there is a punch through one of those or it is not readable. You can accept punched ID, as long as it is not expired–and you can verify photo, date of birth and signature.
Note that Military ID cards will not show the signature because they are encrypted. Also, not all Tribal ID cards will show an expiration date.
- Examine the physical condition of the ID card. Is it fraying up at the corners? Has it been altered in any way? For example, does any of the text or imagery appear different? Observe closely the date of birth and borders of the photograph.
- Does the picture match the person standing in front of you?
- Is the ID card expired? If so, does the person have the temporary ID?
- Can the guest clarify information pertaining to their ID card? The response to questions regarding ID should be automatic.
Other Things to Check on Washington ID
Be sure to compare the photo to the presenter and check the quality of the ID, its thickness, signs of any alteration, font sizes, colors, etc. If you have any doubts, ask questions of the presenter, such as their street address or date of birth; answers should be automatic. Also, check to be sure the first two numbers in the license ID and the year of birth add up to 100.
The Enhanced Driver License is valid to purchase liquor and tobacco products. The new version is shown below.
A United States Passport or Passport Card can also be used to purchase liquor or tobacco products in Washington.
The IDs below are also acceptable to purchase alcohol in Washington.
Merchant Marine ID:
Tribal Identification Cards
Various Tribal Enrollment Cards are acceptable ID in the State of Washington for purchasing alcohol and tobacco products. Click here for samples of current tribal IDs on the WSLCB website. You may want to print them as a reference for your workplace.
Unacceptable forms of ID include:
- Resident alien card
- Birth certificates
- School or work IDs
- Social Security cards
- Federal immigration cards
- Voter registration or visa cards
- Department of Correction ID
- IDs from other countries, except Canada
- Any card that uses “resident” in the title is unacceptable.
Licensee Certification Card
When an ID seems to be okay but you have doubts about a customer’s true age due to youthful appearance, either refuse service or have the guest fill out a licensee certification card available through the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. The card must be completely filled out and filed alphabetically by the licensee or employee by the close of business on the day used. Certification cards are subject to examination by any law enforcement officer.
Other Things to Check
Be sure to compare the photo to the presenter and check the quality of the ID, its thickness, signs of any alteration, font sizes, colors, etc. If you have any doubts, ask questions of the presenter, such as their street address or date of birth; answers should be automatic. Also, check to be sure the first two numbers in the license ID and the year of birth add up to 100.
Have good house policies which state when to check ID, such as if anyone looks younger than 30, and what types of ID are acceptable (licensees don’t have to accept all IDs, such as vertical IDs.) Policies should also discuss issues like when to refuse entry or service and when and what types of incidents to record in a log book.
You may see a Washington driver’s license presented with a punched hole. Punched ID are valid for the purposes of serving liquor if the card is not expired and/or the punch is not through the photo, date of birth, signature or expiration date.
You can get special attention from the LCB if the board receives complaints or if those caught driving under the influence were drinking in your establishment. However, there is no reason to panic if LCB officers visit your establishment. They will work with you to troubleshoot potential problem areas, and then revisit to be sure changes have been made. If you are inspected, officers will return under cover and stay to be served. If problem areas were not taken care of, you will likely be fined, and progressive punitive actions could be taken, including possible shut down of the establishment.
Minor Decoys in Compliance Checks
The state also employs minors who will attempt to be served alcohol. They do not look overly mature for their age, and they do not show fake IDs. They may present their real ID or none at all. If asked, the minor may say he or she is 21. If the minors are served, it is a criminal offense. The server could get their MAST permit suspended or receive a monetary penalty. The employer may be fined or have their liquor licensed suspended. Your MAST permit or your employer’s liquor license can be revoked for repeated violations.
How to Refuse Sales/Service
Be ready to respectfully refuse service if you have doubts about a customer’s age or ID. If they are in a minor restricted area, ask them to leave the area. If the customer complains, politely offer to let them speak with the manger. If the customer becomes very agitated and/or refuses to leave when asked to do so, call the police. Log all incidents in a log book, which we will discuss later in the course. We will discuss additional intervention strategies in the next module.
The Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) may suspend or revoke an existing permit if any liquor or tobacco laws are violated. The LCB may also suspend or revoke a license if the permit holder has been convicted of violating any of the state or local liquor laws, such as driving under the influence, or has been convicted at any time of a felony. Breaking Washington State liquor laws may result in monetary penalties, jail time, license suspension or revocation, and/or a criminal record. Convicted alcohol servers are not entitled to any lost wages or benefits and conviction may affect current and future employment.
Categories of Violations
Violations and penalties fall into three categories: criminal, administrative and potential civil lawsuits.
Washington state criminal penalties are governed by statutes which are written and passed by the Washington State Legislature: the Washington Administrative Code (WAC), and the newer Revised Codes Washington. Washington cities and counties may adopt the criminal laws found in the RCWs, and/or write their own municipal and county codes. These statutes not only define what conduct is considered a Washington crime (i.e. theft, assault, driving under the influence), but also the possible punishments that a judge could impose. For some crimes, the legislature has given judges a great deal of discretion in sentencing. However, for other types of crimes like driving under the influence and felonies, the legislature has limited the discretion of judges and written laws that require a minimum sentence or a sentence within a specific range. Criminal violations are misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and felony charges.
Less serious are administrative violations. If a business violates a state liquor or tobacco law or regulation as stipulated in these administrative codes, Washington State LCB enforcement officers are empowered to issue verbal and written warnings for minor infractions and administrative violation notices, also called AVN for more serious or repeat offenses.
When a business is issued a violation, they can receive a fine, a temporary license or permit suspension, or license or permit cancellation or both. In cases of repeated violations, a liquor license or a MAST permit can be revoked by the WSLCB. Officers look at the past two years of the business’ violation history when determining a recommended penalty using WAC 314-29-015.
We discuss in the online course how liquor liability is also called third party liability. An employee and a business open themselves to potential civil lawsuits by violating state laws. For example, if a minor or an intoxicated person is served, the employee and employer may be held liable for both personal and/or property damage that result from over service, especially of a minor.
Apparently Intoxicated Persons (AIPs)
Washington’s law RCW 66.44.200 prohibits selling of liquor to any person under the influence of liquor. If a person is apparently intoxicated by showing signs of intoxication, they cannot buy, possess, or consume alcohol. This means you MUST remove a drink in front of him or her, and any other alcoholic drinks he or she is caught consuming. This will be much easier to do if you use the following techniques.
Penalties for Serving an Apparently Intoxicated Person (AIP) in Washington State
If you allow someone who appears to be intoxicated–sometimes referred to as drunk–to continue to possess, purchase or drink alcohol, you could be arrested, lose your liquor license, MAST permit and/or lose your job.
Signs of Intoxication
Alcohol affects everyone differently. What’s more, the same person can react differently at different times to the same number of drinks. So it can be difficult to decide when it’s time to refuse service, and even more difficult to carry out your decision. Signs of intoxication can be broken down into four general categories: changes in speech patterns, physical appearance, motor skills, and behavioral problems.
- Speech Patterns: Talk to your guests. It will help It will be important for you to recognize any changes in their speech as they are drinking. Intoxicated guests often become very loud or speak slowly and deliberately, they begin to slur, boast, argue, swear, and complain.
- Physical Appearance: Watch for changes in your guest’s physical appearance, including bloodshot and glassed-over eyes, flushed red face, no eye contact and disheveled hair and/or clothing. The guest’s head may bob, eyelids become droopy and they may look sleepy. A strong odor of alcohol on or about your guests is obviously also a red flag.
- Motor Skills: If they have over-consumed alcohol, your guests may exhibit loss of hand-eye coordination and equilibrium, slowed reaction times, and an inability to focus. Pay close attention to your guest’s hand-eye coordination. Are they having trouble handling or counting their money, raising their glass to their mouth, or are they spilling drinks? Also pay special attention to the guest’s equilibrium. Are they swaying or stumbling, bumping into things or people, slouching, falling down, or even falling out of their chair
- Behavioral Problems: Your guests may display a loss of inhibitions, loss of rational judgment, sudden mood changes, or drowsiness. Watch for guests that are drinking too fast, drinking alone, and/or trying to order doubles and triples. Remember that alcohol exaggerates emotions. So, your guest’s behavior may become obnoxious and angry, bragging, overly-animated, aggressive, including swearing and picking fights. They may complain about the drink prices or the way they were mixed. They could also become unusually entertaining and friendly, be very complimentary, touch inappropriately, buy rounds of drinks, and/or tip excessively. Too many drinks can make some people sullen and withdrawn. Keep an eye out for people who lose their train of thought during conversation. They will often avoid eye contact.
Slow Down Service and Suggest Food
If you think your guests may have had too much to drink, you can slow down drink service without sacrificing your guest’s experience. Do not lie to or deceive your guests. For example, do not tell your guest that the bartender is backed up if the bartender is not backed up. Guests are observant creatures. Wait until your guest is completely finished with a drink before offering another. Make fewer trips to the tables where guests are approaching intoxication. Food will slow down the absorption of alcohol into the body. Recall that it only takes a few minutes to absorb alcohol on an empty stomach, while it can take up to six hours for alcohol to be absorbed after a full meal. Avoid serving spicy or salty foods that promote thirst. Suggest fatty or high protein foods like meats, beans, and cheeses that will do the most to slow down the rate of absorption.
Remain in Control
Always give your guests the best possible service. The most important thing you can do to gain the trust and confidence of your guests is to remain in control. Get a manager for help if you feel out of control. A server pulling their hair out is much more apt to take shortcuts in alcohol service. A bartender with a ticker tape a mile long and more on the way may be unable to stay in control of alcohol service in his or her bar.
Be Professional & Firm
Never be snide or rude. Don’t answer sarcasm with sarcasm. Be firm. Intoxicated people are very skilled at talking servers out of good decisions. “I’ve got a designated driver.” “Come on, it’s my birthday.” Don’t fall for it. It is illegal to serve intoxicated people, designated driver or not. If you can inform the guest that you cannot serve him or her any longer discretely, without anyone else at the table being aware of it, then do so; your discretion will be appreciated. Above all, be kind. Showing genuine concern and making good connections with your guests can make problem situations much easier to diffuse.
Sense of Humor and Group Dynamics
Often a good sense of humor will help in awkward situations, although humor must be in good taste, of course. The degree to which you can humor your guests depends on how you “read” them. Servers can easily cross the line of professionalism with humor. Observe how groups are interacting. If you determine that there are people in the group that are drinking responsibly, try to involve them in problem-solving. Again, be kind. Make your guest feel as though you sincerely care about their safety. If your concern is not sincere, your guest will know it.
You have tried everything and it is time to discontinue service to a guest showing signs of intoxication. First, get support: Notify a manager when you are about to refuse service. Your decision may need backing up, especially if the guest becomes agitated or angry. Be firm: Be friendly, but do not back down on your decision or bargain with the guest. Let the guest know that you want him or her to get home safely.
Do not antagonize: Do not provoke the guest by embarrassing him or her. Avoid statements like “You’re drunk,” or “You’ve had way too much to drink.” Do not lecture or judge. Do not allow your discussion with an apparently intoxicated person to turn into an argument. Shift responsibility: If you feel more comfortable taking some of the burden of responsibility off of you, feel free to use the law as a scapegoat. “I’m sorry, sir, but by law, I can’t serve you anymore.” The intent is to diffuse any anger or frustration that may be directed at you by giving the guest the idea that the issue is out of your hands. Feel free to make reference to any warning signs or postings if that will help. You may refer to your store policy, although we discourage this practice because it tends to result in a re-direction, rather than a diffusion of anger and/or frustration. Now the guest is angry at your managers, instead of being angry at you.
Recommend non-alcoholic drinks: Don’t compromise the consistency of a quality product by pouring weak drinks. If a guest is intoxicated, do not serve him or her. Because excessive alcohol consumption makes people hyper-sensitive, it is important to handle this suggestion with tact, discretion, concern, and kindness.
Finally, remember to communicate: Be sure to inform your co-workers and managers of any guests that have been cut off. This will avoid the common problem of “roving.” Roving is when a guest that has been cut off simply moves to another server’s section or to the bar for another drink. This is particularly important when guests are moving from a lounge setting to a dining room setting and vice-versa. When in doubt, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE.
Practical Suggestions for Discontinuing Service
Try these practical suggestions for discontinuing service:
• A simple dropping of the check with, “I am glad you had such a good time tonight,” is clear and non-confrontational.
• Find a responsible person in group: Friends listen to friends
• Be kind and discrete
• After service is discontinued, make sure your customer has a safe way to get home. Call a cab, if needed.
Even if you use the quality guest service techniques to avoid problems, a problem can arise. Refusing to serve a guest can be very difficult. Even good, regular customers, whose business is important to you, can become intoxicated. Just try to remember how dangerous an intoxicated person can become. It doesn’t matter if the guest is driving, walking, or taking a taxi; they are still a danger to themselves and others. Your difficult decision could not only save your liquor license, it could save someone’s life.
All of the techniques described to avoid problems also apply to intervening with problem guests. It is key to remain in control and maintain a professional attitude. A specific measure that can be taken when dealing with a problem situation is simply to remain calm. Do not panic or lower yourself to the antics of an intoxicated problem guest. Another important technique is to notify a manager as soon as you feel a problem forming. Tell the manager what you are feeling, why you feel the way you do, and what they can do to make you feel safe and supported. Another important measure is to arrange alternative transportation: Any time you inadvertently serve a guest to the point of intoxication, be sure that you assist them with obtaining alternative transportation. All facilities should have the local taxi cab phone number clearly posted and easily accessible. Any time an intoxicated person refuses to accept alternative transportation, call the police. Nearly half of all traffic fatalities occur at the hands of an intoxicated driver.
Any time a guest is verbally, physically, or sexually abusive to other guests (including the guests in their own party) or co-workers, call the police.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 9,967 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2014, but this is down from almost 14,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2008 and over 26,000 in 1982. Still, many tens of thousands of people are injured every year in alcohol-related accidents in the United States.
Social and Economic Costs from DUI
Traffic fatalities and injuries from driving under the influence create many other social and economic costs. These include
- Lost productivity
- Workplace losses
- Legal and court expenses
- Medical costs
- Emergency medical services (EMS)
- Insurance administration
- Property damage
Source: Traffic Safety Facts: 2014 Data. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812231
High Risk Groups
People age 25 and younger are more likely to have an accident from drinking and driving. According to Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD), drinking and driving kills more young people in this age group than any other danger in our society. The combination of not drinking very long and not driving very long kills more people in this high-risk age group than any other behavior or combined behaviors.
Every time there is a fatal vehicular accident, blood samples are taken. With this process, it has been discovered that 50% of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve alcohol. This may not be too surprising, but many people find it surprising that 75% of that 50% were well below the legal limit of .08%. One or two beers is enough to throw off judgment just enough to go into a curve too fast or blow a stop sign in an intersection. Poor decisions are made under the influence of alcohol and can be fatal, especially to those people riding motorcycles.
In 1998, President Clinton advocated that all U.S. states lower the Blood Alcohol Concentration (or BAC) required to be considered legally intoxicated to .08%. As a result, one is considered legally intoxicated for the purpose of operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% in Washington State, down from .1% in 1997. Counties have the authority to set their own legal limits, so long as they do not exceed the federal minimum standard of .08%.
Implied Consent: Anyone who operates a motor vehicle on Washington roads has given his or her consent to take a breath or chemical test when stopped by an officer for suspicion of driving under the influence. This is what is known as giving implied consent. A driver who refuses to take a BAC test when asked to do so by the police automatically loses their license to drive for one year.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), more than half (54%) of all jail inmates had been drinking before they made the poor decisions that led to their incarceration. The more heinous the crime, the higher the probability that alcohol was involved. More than 65% of all violent crime involving manslaughter and assault was committed under the influence of alcohol.
Third Party Liability
This is often called third party liability because there are normally three parties involved in lawsuits: the intoxicated person, the victim, and the server and/or employer. If it is determined that a person involved in an accident was irresponsibly served alcohol, the server risks losing their job and any future wages, and the server and/or establishment can be held personally liable for any damages to the victim. It includes victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional and financial damage and claims of an estate if a victim dies. According to the Washington Restaurant and Bar Association, billions of dollars are spent each year to litigate alcohol-related cases. The only way to protect yourself from the third party liability is to serve alcohol responsibly and not serve minors and apparently intoxicated persons. This course is designed to protect you and your employer from such liabilities.
Barrett v. Lucky Seven Saloon
In the case of Barrett v. Lucky Seven Saloon, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that liquor-licensed establishments can be held fully liable for continuing to serve “the apparently under the influence” patron. The case involved a man who had been served 3 pitches of beer in a 3-hour period before seriously and permanently injuring another driver—the third party—after he fell asleep at the wheel.
The Tracking Process
People arrested for driving under the influence are asked where they had been drinking last. This information is provided to the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) by the Washington State Patrol. The LCB then tracks the establishments by the number of alleged allegations of over-service. If there seems to be a trend developing, the LCB will notify the licensee of a potential problem. If the trend continues, undercover compliance investigations may be conducted. The police also track the establishments that first, are serving guests beyond the point of intoxication and second, are allowing those intoxicated guests to get behind the wheel of a car. If an establishment is found to be guilty of breaking the liquor laws of the state, it may be fined, its liquor license suspended or revoked and/or it may be shut down.
DUI Tracking System
You can get special attention from the LCB if it receives complaints or if those caught driving under the influence were drinking in your establishment. However, there is no reason to panic if LCB officers visit your establishment. They will work with you to troubleshoot potential problem areas, and then revisit to be sure changes have been made. Officers may return under cover and stay to be served. If problem areas were not taken care of, you will likely be fined, and progressive punitive actions could be taken, including possible shut down of the establishment.
What You as a Server Can Do
As a server, you should be mindful when serving alcoholic drinks. Do not serve a minor and do not serve a person showing signs of intoxication. In addition, you can control the PACE of consumption by decreasing the service of alcohol. You can also increase the service of FOOD. Eating slows the rate of alcohol absorption. Finally, ask yourself: What is the patron’s MOOD? Alcohol increases most emotional states, including happiness, anger or depression.
Keeping an incident log is helpful if you need to defend yourself in a liquor lawsuit. This is an example of the types of information you may want to track in your log. The log should illustrate the fact that you have been following the law and be a daily written record of events such as fights, refusing service to minors or visibly intoxicated people, or calling the police. Your incident log is also a good way to track common problems and find solutions.
Ideally, incident logs should be kept in log books that include the following features: They should be bound notebooks so that torn pages can be easily discerned. Every single day must be recorded, even if no incidents occurred. On a day without any incident, you must enter the date and one line saying “nothing happened.” On a day you do not work or the restaurant is closed, write this down in your log book. Every incident must be entered with the time, date, place and the description of the incident. The person involved must be clearly and identifiably described. (Include their name if available and appearance.) Every line in a page must be filled. If a line is left blank, it must be crossed out to make it impossible to add something on a later date. If the police are called, make a note of what action is taken.
Mixologists and Servers who drink or serve after close, are convicted of DUI or serve observably intoxicated guests may be cited AND sanctioned AND have his or her permit suspended or revoked. A monetary penalty may be imposed in lieu of a suspension.
Rules Related TO Alcohol Laws and MAST
There are many regulations that a licensed establishment must follow. First, liquor licenses are responsible for the operation of their licensed premises in compliance with the liquor laws and rules. Any violations committed or permitted by employees will be treated by the Liquor and Cannabis Board as violations committed or permitted by the licensee.
No licensee may possess, sell, or serve any liquor other than that permitted by his or her license except:
(a) Under authority of a banquet permit;
(b) Restaurant licensees may allow patrons to bring wine into the premises for consumption with a meal.
(c) Beer and/or wine restaurant or tavern licensees may keep spirituous liquor for cooking purposes.
Removing Alcohol from the Premises
Licensees or employees may not permit the removal of liquor in an open container from the licensed premises, except:
(a) Liquor brought on a licensed premises under authority of a banquet permit may be resealed in its original container and removed at the end of the banquet permit function
(b) Wine that is sold with a meal may be recorked or resealed and removed from the premises.
Make sure to recork or reseal the wine, mark the wine level on the bottle leaving the restaurant, date and initial it, put it in a bag, staple it with a receipt showing purchase of a meal and ask that it is placed in the trunk of their car. If they do not have a trunk, ask them to place it to where it can’t be reached from the driver’s seat.
(c) Liquor purchased by registered guests for consumption inside a hotel or motel room may be resealed in its original container and removed from the hotel or motel premises by the guest; and
(d) Liquor removed from a licensed premises that holds a caterer’s endorsement, for the purpose of catering an approved event.
In regards to remodeling of the premises with minor restricted area, you need to obtain approval from the Liquor and Cannabis Board before beginning work on any alterations. No approval is needed for refurbishing, as long as structural components remain the same.
All licensees are expected to maintain business records of all liquor and tobacco purchases (including invoices, checks, and memoranda) for three years and have them readily available for inspection.
Retail Liquor Prices and Offers
All liquor must be sold at a price not lower than the licensee’s acquisition cost. On-premises retail licensees may give a customer a drink free of charge under limited circumstances, such as a customer’s birthday or to compensate for unsatisfactory products or services. Free liquor may not be used in advertising or as part of a promotion.
No retail licensee shall offer for sale any liquor for on premises consumption under advertising slogans where the expressed or implied meaning is that a customer, in order to receive a reduced price, would be required to purchase more than one drink at a time, such as “two for the price of one,” “buy one get one free,” or two for a certain price.
- The current and valid master license showing all appropriate business endorsements, such as liquor and tobacco, must be posted conspicuously and available for inspection.
- WSLCB provides Fetal Alcohol Syndrome signs warning the possible danger of birth defects which may be caused as a result of the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. This sign must be posted in plain view at the main entrance to the premises and in the women’s restrooms.
- No Minors signs must be posted for the minor restricted area of the premises. Licensee may make their own signs or use the one provided by the WSLCB.
- No Firearms signs must be posted in each tavern and lounge.
- Full food service hours. Food service must be available whenever liquor is sold except taverns and night clubs. Spirits, beer and wine restaurant licensees must post their own sign, which states the hours of full food service in the lounge. Full food service means a complete meal that includes an entrée and at least one side dish and the restaurant licensee must serve at least eight complete meals. Limited food service, such as sandwiches, pizza, or hamburgers must be available outside of full service hours.
Tobacco and Vapor Law
No persons under the age of 18 may be sold or provided tobacco products, including cigarettes or chewing tobacco. If you are licensed to sell tobacco products you must display this sign at each point of sale.
If you have a machine dispensing tobacco products this sign must be posted on it. All machines must be in an area restricted from persons under 18. The machines must be over 10 feet from the entrances.
On all portions of the premises where alcohol is served or consumed, licensees must maintain sufficient lighting so that identification may be checked and patrons may be observed for the enforcement of liquor laws and rules.
Liquor Sale Hours
Liquor may only be sold or served between the hours of 6 a.m. and 2 a.m., seven days a week while open to the public. This means, if your business closes at 10 pm, no more alcohol service is allowed. If you have customers beyond your opening hours, you may allow them to finish their food and/or alcohol as long as you are not closed to the public and it is before 2 a.m.
No Substitution of Drinks
Liquor licensees or employees may not:
(a) Tamper, dilute, or fortify any bottle of spirituous liquor;
(b) Sell or serve any spirituous liquor, beer, or wine other than ordered; or
(c) Substitute a nonalcoholic beverage when an alcoholic beverage has been ordered
If a customer is showing two or more signs of intoxication, notify them you are not allowed to serve them any more alcohol and offer them a non-alcohol drink. If they have alcoholic beverages with them, you must remove the drink. Follow the techniques we discussed above.
No Drinking On the Job
Licensees and employees may not consume liquor of any kind while working on the licensed premises, except that:
Per law WAC 314-02-010, entertainers may drink while performing under the following conditions:
(A) Alcohol service must be monitored by MAST servers;
(B) Drinks must be served in unlabeled containers;
(C) Entertainers may not advertise any alcohol brands or products;
(D) Entertainers may not promote drink specials; and
(E) If any member of the entertainment group is under twenty-one years of age, alcohol may not be consumed by any member of the group while performing.
A person must be twenty-one years of age or older to be employed in the sale, handling, or service of liquor. Here are some exceptions:
Persons between eighteen and twenty-one years of age may perform the following duties:
- Take orders for, serve, and sell liquor in areas classified as open to persons under twenty-one years of age; and
- Enter areas designated as off-limits to persons under twenty-one years of age to perform duties such as picking up liquor for service in other parts of the establishment; cleaning up, setting up, and arranging tables; delivering messages; serving food; and seating patrons; provided the employee does not remain in the area any longer than is necessary to perform the duties. To perform these duties, they are required to obtain a Class 13 MAST permit within 60 days of initial employment.
Persons under 21 years of age may also:
- Sell alcohol for off-premises consumption under the supervision of persons 21 and over
- Perform janitorial services during the hours when there is no sale, service, or consumption of liquor on the premises;
- Install, maintain, repair, or remove any amusement device;
- Carry on an official duties as security (if not a direct employee of the licensee), law enforcement officers, firefighters, and
Customer Conduct and Obscenity
Guests or employees who become loud, boisterous, or disorderly may not be allowed to remain on the premises. Licensees are responsible for the disorderly conduct of guests anywhere on their property. This includes parking lots and outdoor service areas. If there is a fight in the licensee’s parking lot, call the police. Lewd or obscene conduct, pictures, entertainment or literature is prohibited in any business selling or serving alcoholic beverages.
No Marijuana Use
Liquor licensees may not engage in, or permit any employee or other person to engage in, the consumption of any type of marijuana, usable marijuana, or marijuana-infused products, including outdoor service areas or any part of the property owned or controlled by the licensee.
Stop Prohibited Activity
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board may take administrative action against licensees who engage in criminal activity or knowingly permit employees or customers to engage in criminal activity on the licensed premises. A licensee “knowingly permits” by failing to take reasonable action to stop prohibited activity such as illegal drug use occurring on the licensed premises or adjacent property. This includes sidewalks, parking lots, and bathrooms. The licensee is responsible through actual observation or by reasons of fact and circumstances.
Penalties for violations of the regulations discussed in this module range from a letter of admonition to suspension or revocation of the MAST permit and or liquor license privileges A monetary option instead of a license suspension is sometimes available.
Good Samaritan Laws
In 2013, the Washington State legislature updated the law covering alcohol use by minors to provide immunity for minors who seek medical attention for someone experiencing alcohol poisoning, as well as for those who assist them in getting help. Although the protection cannot be used as grounds for suppression of evidence in other criminal charges, minors who are calling for help have over-consumed alcohol and those who assist them by calling 911 are free from prosecution.
Similarly, the “911 Good Samaritan overdose law” passed in 2000 by the Washington legislature provides immunity for criminal prosecution for drug possession to overdose victims and bystanders. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, as cited in a report by the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, deaths by drug overdose have been rising dramatically in recent years, and now surpass traffic accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with Washington State exceeding the national average.1
As an alcohol server, manager, or friend of an overdose victim, including those who have consumed too much alcohol or mixed it with other drugs, you should always seek help by calling 911. These Good Samaritan laws are helping to save lives by reducing the fear of prosecution.
The single most important thing that managers and bartenders can do to ensure responsible service of alcohol is to support the decisions made by their servers. Effective intervention happens when the server remains in control. Management and bartenders’ support is essential. Continuous training is also important. An informed and educated service staff will not only serve alcohol responsibly, but will do it in such a way as to promote repeat business.
House Policies: Establishments that are licensed to serve alcohol take tremendous liability risks. One civil suit against a licensee could be all it takes to put a restaurant or bar out of business permanently. Thoughtfully conceived and well-written house policies will go a long way in protecting yourself and your business from such liabilities. House policies are more effective when servers sign and date a form which states that they have read, understand, and will make a good faith effort to comply with these policies. The following are examples of house policies adopted by some establishments in the industry: eliminate pitcher service, eliminate last call, remain open one or two more hours after last call, serve food until closing, establish partnerships with local taxi cab companies, and again, to keep an incidence log.
Responsible Marketing: Businesses that are concerned about being responsible develop marketing strategies that promote food, entertainment, and distinctive activities for which alcohol service is merely incidental.
With heads-up management, profit margins can be maintained and even increased while serving alcohol responsibly.
Of course, it is also important to look after the well-being of your customers. Taking care of your customers also helps your business and protects it from liability lawsuits. Ensuring that your customers are behaving responsibly also benefits and protects your community, which in turn benefits all of society. Therefore, the role you play is extremely important, not only for the success of your establishment, but for the well-being of your customers, community, and society as a whole.
Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board
If you have questions or comments about about our online course or MAST, you can also contact the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board at [email protected]. They can provide more information on the liquor laws and regulations, and you can also reach them by phone at 360-664-1727 / 360-664-1728.
Questions about our Online MAST Class for Washington State?
If you have any questions, please about the course or technical difficulties, please do not hesitate to contact us.