Bartenders debate level of responsible service

5th February, 2016 by Melita Kiely

The best bartenders get a kick out of knowing they’re helping people have a good time – but what if it goes too far? Should bartenders be to blame if someone drinks themselves into injury or illness?

Responsible-service

There is much debate over how much responsibility bartenders shoulder over patrons’ consumption levels

Bartending is a profession dedicated to the art of hospitality, but working with alcohol is not a position of power that should ever be taken lightly.

While the cocktail sector is exploding with boundary-pushing innovation, it is imperative the industry does not become detached from the dangers associated with what is, after all, an intoxicating drug. In numerous countries including the UK, the US and Australia, legislation has been put in place making it illegal to sell alcohol to a person who is obviously drunk, and similarly, to buy an alcoholic drink for someone you know to be drunk.

However, despite the foundation of such laws, questions abound over who is responsible for ensuring the industry is not plagued with a problem of over-consumption. During recent months the media has been awash with a string of high profile tragedies involving the apparent “over-serving” of alcohol, a handful of which have had calamitous consequences.

In April, Martell’s Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant Beach, Jersey Shore, US, was fined US$500,000 and had its licence revoked for a month after allegedly over-serving alcohol to a woman who later died in a car crash.

Tragic incident

The incident unfolded in 2013 after Ashley Chieco, 26, left Martell’s in another person’s car, which collided into an on-coming vehicle killing herself and injuring the other driver, Dana Corrar. The survivor suffered two broken legs, broken ribs and will “never work again, never walk again normally and never be pain free,” according to her lawyer, Paul Edelstein, a personal injury specialist. Martell’s pleaded “no contest” to the charge of serving alcohol to an intoxicated person in exchange for the fine.

“Businesses that profit from the sale of alcohol are well aware of its dangers, particularly when combined with people who then get into vehicles,” Edelstein says. “It is akin to a shop selling bullets and then allowing its customers access to a gun when they leave. Hopefully the attention alone will make a bartender think twice before continuing to serve someone and inquire as to how they are leaving a location that does not provide access to mass transit.”

So when it comes to alcohol consumption where does the responsibility of the bartender start and that of the consumer end? For some, all persons involved – the consumer, bartender and management – have a collective duty for the wellbeing of both patrons and staff.

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