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How to handle intoxicated restaurant customers

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In the April issue, editor Michael Sanson discussed an evening he had in a restaurant where an intoxicated woman was over-served and allowed to leave the restaurant with a full glass of beer. Employees of the restaurant pretended to not know what was happening. Sanson asked readers if they could explain what had happened that night and how they would have handled the situation. Here are excerpts from those who wrote.

Photo: Media Bakery

Maybe the reason the staff was not so against serving the drunk customer is because she was not a customer at all. If the drunk woman was the owner or manager, then that would explain why the staff continued to serve her, why they let her walk out without paying, and why the hostess thought it was no big deal. That would also explain why you saw no manager all night long.

I have known of several restaurant and bar owners who met their demise when drinking at work. The best staff stayed around and kept their mouth shut until they stopped making money or until they just could not deal with the owner’s issues anymore.

Evan Liaskos
Cortlandt Colonial Manor
Restaurant & Catering
Cortlandt Manor, NY

This woman obviously had a relationship with the restaurant. She was either the manager on “duty” or she owned the bar and the employees were afraid of what she would do if they don’t serve her. I totally agree that you should have gotten her in some kind of trouble [called the police].

Michael Czaplewski
Executive Chef
Santa Marta Retirement
Olathe, KS

What you described seems quite negligent on the part of the bar owner/operator. In California, I think the owner would bear at least some responsibility if the intoxicated patron was the cause of car accident.  Even if the bar owner is not concerned about the health of the patron (alcohol poisoning), I would have thought liability might be a concern.

The California Business and Professions Code (Sect 25602) is clear about liability for serving intoxicated persons, and so is Ohio (Ohio Rev Code Ann. Sect 4399).  

I am the Founder of California Restaurant Law, which provides proactive employment advice and counsel to the food and wine industry.

Meena Patel
California Restaurant Law
Los Angeles

First things first: Fire the bartender, the hostess and the manager. Now let the owner of this establishment know that the cluster f--- written about in the April issue belongs to him or her. People like this owning a bar is why our liquor liability insurance is through the roof. The bartender was looking for a big tip, the hostess was brain dead and the manager was probably trying to get laid in the office. Oh, the owner was on his boat in the B.V.I.

Bob McGovern
Packards Restaurant
Northampton, Mass.

You can’t get caught up in everyone’s business. Adults need to be responsible for themselves. If that woman decided to drive home drunk then it’s her bad choice and you should not feel responsible for it. My concerns are focused when I’m at work because there we are responsible, but once I leave my Wall Street steakhouse, I live and let live unless someone is physically abusing a woman or child.

Vincent Alessi
General Manager
Bobby Van’s Seakhouse
New York City

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