Liquor Liability: The Other Side of the Story

Most states have Dram Shop laws making those in the business of selling, serving, or providing alcohol legally liable for bodily injuries or property damage that occurs as a result of a patron’s intoxication. For this reason, businesses that offer the provision of alcohol must follow strict rules with regard to its service. These rules are often found in the Alcoholic Beverage Code of the state in which the business is operating.

Providers are often required under this Code to have all of their servers undergo alcohol awareness training. This teaches servers: 1) how to recognize and prevent intoxication, 2) how to deal with patrons who have become intoxicated, and 3) how to meet their legal responsibilities related to alcohol service. In some states, including Texas, requiring this training and actually ensuring that all of your current servers have attended this training can potentially go a long way toward limiting your business’ exposure to liability.

However your business can still be held liable if, as the employer, you don’t enforce the rules and follow through. You must do more than certify your staff. Your attitudes and actions have to show that you take responsible alcohol consumption seriously. This is the most important thing you can do to reduce your alcohol liability.


Here are some simple but effective steps to take:

  • Make sure that your staff members are reprimanded if they are involved in an episode of over-service, and document it.
  • Develop a relationship with your ABC representative, before they respond to a complaint. Have them out to your business to provide advice and tips.
  • Hold weekly or monthly meetings with staff to discuss issues about alcohol service.
  • Serve food; offer free non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Avoid discounting drink prices.
  • Use measured drinks rather than free pour.
  • Do not circulate to refill or refresh drinks.
  • Avoid any kind of competitions related to drinking.


These common sense initiatives will not only help prevent your business from becoming financially responsible for alcohol related incidents, but, more importantly, they will help save lives.

legal - liquor liability - melanie cheairs and david j. escobar - lorance & thompson