By David R. Shorey, East County Program Manager, Institute for Public Strategies
April 14, 2021 (San Diego) - Now that San Diego County has entered the Orange Tier, East County bars are opening and restaurants are expanding their operations. While this gives the food and beverage industry an opportunity to bounce back from extended pandemic closures, we have to be vigilant about the overservice of alcoholic beverages. It may be tempting to encourage an extra drink sale here and there to recoup some of the lost business revenue, but continuing to pour for customers who are clearly intoxicated or selling to the under-21 crowd isn’t helpful to the customer or the business.
Drunk people can be a harm to themselves and others. DUI arrests, injuries, fights, destruction of property, rape, and death have all been linked back to overservice of alcohol and service to those under 21. But what about the businesses and the servers themselves? Once a drunk person walks out the door, can they still be held liable? The answer is yes. Bartenders and servers can be held liable for what a person does after they leave the bar or restaurant. It is ultimately up to the establishment to ensure that their servers are trained and knowledgeable about overservice and proper identification checks.
To that end, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is resuming Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training online. This renewed effort is timely and important, especially when alcohol establishments might see an influx of employees new to the business or returning workers who are a little rusty in their skills to serve responsibly.
According to the ABC website, the mission of the License Education on Alcohol and Drugs (LEAD) program is to “provide high quality, effective and educationally sound training on alcohol responsibility and the law to California retail licensees and their employees.” The ABC “expects and encourages licensees to act responsibly relative to their alcoholic beverage license privileges.”
Our East County bars, restaurants and stores can reduce their risks of liability by promoting food and non-alcoholic drinks to discourage intoxication. They should promote safe ride programs to prevent drunk driving. They should hire and train staff thoroughly, including RBS training. They should enforce a no drinking policy for employees while on duty. And they should encourage and support employee’s decisions to stop serving an already intoxicated patron.
We have to be more considerate and accountable for each other and our communities.
Alcohol, handled carelessly, can have tragic results. Owning a liquor license is a privilege. Being lax on maintaining the terms of the license as well as selling to anyone who is buying shows a disregard for the establishment’s employees, neighbors, customers, the community, and the very agency that granted their license. It is also showing disregard for life. So many lives are affected by the negative consequences of overconsumption. Not only the victims and their families, but the drunk driver and their family, and the business employees and their families too.
As we make our way out of COVID and begin to reweave the threads of our communities, friendships, and families back into our social lives, let’s not add more tragedy and injury to the story of the COVID generation. Bars and restaurants are encouraged to sell alcohol responsibly and be the good curators of our social experiences that we know them to be.