Dealing with Intoxicated Patrons

Have you ever had a customer slurring their speech and asking for yet another drink? Perhaps a customer drinking and showing off, while being loud or obnoxious inside of your business? How about someone drinking excessive amounts of alcohol within a short period of time?

All these can be signs of intoxication. As a bar or restaurant owner, it may seem as though intoxicated customers just come with the line of business you are in. However, it’s how you deal with these intoxicated customers that can make all the difference. 

Here are 4 strategies to help you deal with intoxicated patrons:

1. Bring Up Food.

Suggest that they purchase a food item instead of another drink. When we eat, it helps slow down the absorption of alcohol in the body. Also, if the patron has an empty stomach, they will continue to get more intoxicated, quicker.

2. Offer Water, Coffee or Tea.

Suggest having them try a different product that is non-alcoholic. This gives them time to let the alcohol pass through the body. Offering them water or coffee is a great alternative. If this doesn’t work, perhaps try juice or a soft drink.

3. Try Talking to the Group.

It can be beneficial to have friends talk to an intoxicated individual instead of a bartender. If an intoxicated individual is with a group of people, try talking with the group members. The group may be able to help sway the intoxicated individual into slowing down or switching to a non-alcoholic beverage.

Bartender dealing with drunk customer

4. Avoid the Intoxicated Patron.

Instead of relying on a drunk patron to change what they’re doing, slow down the flow of drinks yourself. Servers or bartenders may have to avoid that customer for longer periods of time to slow down the service of drinks. This will give the intoxicated customer more time for the alcohol to pass through their system.

The final step in dealing with an intoxicated customer is to refuse service.

Refusing service can potentially lead to a heated conversation with the customer, so it’s important to have an established policy in place stating how your business deals with intoxicated customers. Servers and bartenders need to know it’s acceptable to go to the manager for help when dealing with an intoxicated customer.

When speaking with a customer about refusing them service:

  • Be as friendly as possible, yet firm in your decision.
  • Tell them you care about their well-being and want them to get home safely. It is recommended that you help them find transportation home if they do not have a way to get home safely. A cab service or third-party app such as Lyft or Uber can make all the difference if the intoxicated customer is drinking alone.
  • It’s alright to let them know that your job or liquor license could be at risk if you were to overserve them. Click here to learn more about liquor liability.

If a drunk patron becomes disorderly or you feel threatened in any way, contact your local police department for assistance. The goal is always to keep everyone involved in this situation – and your business – safe.

Find more safety resources from our risk management team at Society Insurance has a partnership in place that provides discounts for Society policyholders to use any service offered by ServSafe – this includes alcohol service training.

To learn more about how Society can help your business, click here to find your local Society agent.

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