Jeremy Julian

How to Deal with Intoxicated Patrons on St. Patrick’s Day

February 25, 2015
How to Deal with Intoxicated Patrons on St. Patrick's Day

Even our President can enjoy the festivities while keeping it classy.

St. Paddy’s Day is approaching! Is your restaurant or bar breaking out the plastic leprechaun hats and prepping the green beer and shamrock-shaped cookies? How about that faithful tradition, corned beef and cabbage? (Side note: it’s not really Irish.)

Most of all, are you preparing yourself and your staff for the potentially rowdy St. Patrick’s Day crowd? Lucky you!

Let’s be honest: drunk people can be entertaining…in other people’s establishments. They can invite trouble that you don’t want any part of – fights, property damage, and legal liability for over-serving, to name a few of the risks associated with not properly handling your intoxicated patrons.

So protect yourself and your restaurant or bar this St. Patrick’s Day, and let’s keep it classy while ensuring all have a grand ole’ time celebrating dear Mr. St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle.

Here are some tips on how to deal with intoxicated patrons on St. Patrick’s Day:

How to Deal with Intoxicated Patrons on St. Patrick's DayYour front of house (FOH) staff are not just hosts, servers, bartenders, bussers, and valet – they are also law followers, enforcers, and (for lack of a better term) babysitters.

Train your FOH Staff

Train your staff regarding responsible service standards. For examples of training and certification programs, check out ServSafe Alcohol, Tips, or contact your state’s beverage license association.

Always check ID (no exceptions) and ensure your staff knows the signs of intoxication to look for, how to handle difficult situations with drunk patrons, and how take action to prevent patrons from driving drunk.

Signs of Intoxication

This list is by no means exhaustive – many factors can contribute to a person’s level of intoxication. But a few things to look for are:

  • ordering drinks rapidly
  • loud and/or slurred speech
  • spilling drinks or missing mouth
  • staggering or stumbling
  • aggressive/belligerent behavior

Do NOT serve someone who is showing signs of intoxication. Period. You could be held financially and even criminally responsible if someone is harmed by a drunk patron whom you over-served, so err on the side of caution and vigilance.

How to Cut Someone Off

Start by slowing down your service to them. (Let your manager and fellow servers know you’re doing this, so they too can keep an eye on the patron and intervene if necessary.)

  • Place a large glass of water in front of the person and suggest they order some food
  • Take an empty glass or bottle away before coming back with a new one
  • Make yourself a little less available (take your time preparing other drinks, cleaning the bar, changing the keg, restocking the cooler, etc.). If necessary, make up excuses for why you need to be elsewhere.
  • Say something like “Let’s slow down a bit.”

Let them know when it’s their last call, giving them time to nurse their last drink and putting them on notice that they’re being cut off. You can also try placing the check in front of the patron, thanking them for coming and asking them to come again another time.

If they’re not getting the hint, cut them off privately to avoid embarrassment. Pull them aside and say something firm but non-accusatory like, “I think you should call it a night” or “Your last call has come early.” Enlist the help of a sober (or less intoxicated) friend to break the news – it may be better received that way.

If they don’t have a sober person to ride home with, call a driving service such as a taxi cab, Uber, Lyft, or Drunk Rescue and watch them get into the car. If the patron is argumentative, consider offering to pay for their drinks as long as they take the ride home. If necessary, call the police and escort the patron outside so as not to disturb other customers.



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