Alcohol liability control can be an important risk management consideration for any organization or establishment. Municipalities may be responsible for patrons when alcohol is served at events.
Liquor Liability laws apply to:
● Servers: serving people past the point of intoxication is illegal
● Occupiers: People, companies or any other organization that owns, has possession of or responsibility for a premise are responsible for protecting persons on their premise from harm
● Employers are liable when employees are consuming alcohol such as at staff parties
● Sponsors of potentially dangerous activities
● Security personnel: The use of unnecessary or excessive force to manage intoxicated patrons is illegal
To prevent any incidents resulting in liability, we recommend following the below steps:
Step 1: Ensure Compliance with Gaming Liquor Control Act, which prohibits,
● selling or providing alcohol to a person who is, or appears to be, intoxicated;
● drinking, buying, attempting to buy, or otherwise obtaining alcohol under the age of 18;
● possessing or drinking alcohol in any place other than a home, private place, or a facility that has a license or permit; and
● being intoxicated in public.
Step 2: Create a Municipal Alcohol Policy
Alcohol policies should be used to define when and where alcohol is to be permitted and under what conditions. A balance must be achieved so that the use and enjoyment of alcohol does not result in harm to patrons or others.
A Municipal Alcohol Policy should include:
● a list of locations where alcohol is prohibited;
● a list of locations where alcohol will be permitted (including licensed locations) and where special occasion permits will be required;
● conditions under which alcohol can be served;
● items such as the ratio of bartenders to guests, training of bartenders, food service requirements, hours of operation, security, separation from non-drinking areas, checking for under-age drinkers, designated driver programs, etc.;
● how enforcement will be carried out, i.e., who has this responsibility;
● employees/volunteers direction on what to do with violators;
● penalties for violations, i.e., progressive penalties that lead to suspension of teams that fail to follow the rules;
● an educational program advising the public as to what the rules are while promoting the responsible use of alcohol;
● Facility Use Agreements - See Article 16 Transferring Liability;
Step 3: Ensure you have proper coverage
In addition to enacting a Municipal Alcohol Policy, a hold harmless and indemnifying agreement should be included holding the municipality harmless and indemnifying the municipality for losses or damages resulting from the negligent use of the facilities or the serving of alcohol. Consult a lawyer for advice on contracts and agreements.
Also, consider obtaining insurance coverage with higher limits. Consult your insurance representative for more.
Municipalities should also ensure appropriate permits are obtained, as well as insurance coverage with higher limits.
Step 4: Take action to avoid incidents related to alcohol consumption
● Provide adequate supervision and security
● Avoid combining alcohol and potentially dangerous activities
● Implement measures to prevent theft (i.e. security cameras, additional personnel, etc.)
● Recommend termination of agreement if facility is operating in an unsafe manner
● Be aware of the level of intoxication of all patrons at all times
● Do not serve patrons past the point of intoxication
● Have a plan to ensure that intoxicated guests can be taken home safely (i.e. hire a driver or have a direct line to cab company with a "house" credit account)
● Ensure servers have experience and training—they should be able to identify signs of intoxication and understand that they could be held civilly liable.
● Provide educational material that warns against excessive alcohol consumption, i.e., posters from Mothers Against Drinking and Driving (MADD), Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD) or similar organizations;
● Offer food service
● Remind guests before and during the event not to drink and drive and of the other options available
● Have several trained doormen/bouncers/spotters who remain sober and watch people leaving and encourage/insist on taxi use
● Inform guests that intoxicated persons will be put into taxis
● Encourage taxi use and provide vouchers
● Provide reduced/subsidized taxi and hotel rates
● Encourage car pools and designated driver programs
● Prepare to have a friendly word with anyone becoming intoxicated
● Ask the person to surrender car keys
● If necessary, call the police
Step 5: Implement a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy for employees
Abuse of drugs or alcohol that affects an employee's performance at work or their safety or the safety of others will not be tolerated. Employees/volunteers must not under any circumstances consume drugs or alcohol while on the job, whether operating vehicles or performing other tasks.
Employees/volunteers that need to operate vehicles and/or heavy machinery must not consume drugs or alcohol less than eight hours before their next scheduled shift and must not attend work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
All employees/volunteers are responsible for abiding by this zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy. If a supervisor or colleague notices behavior that indicates an employee/volunteer may be affected by the use of alcohol or drugs while on the job as listed above or in a different manner, he/she must report it to the department head immediately.
Lastly, if a claim is made against your municipality, be sure to perform the following steps:
- Immediately contact your insurance representative.
- Record all relevant information surrounding the potential claim like names and contact information for any witnesses, staff or volunteers that were present or have information relevant to the incident. Have staff/volunteers complete an incident report with all relevant details.
- Refer any discussions with the claimant to your insurer. It is wise to tell employees and/or volunteers that they should not discuss liability with potential claimants and that they should never admit liability.
- Investigate potential causes and brainstorm and implement preventative measures.