Holding Bars and Restaurants Accountable for Serving Drunk Patrons
In Pennsylvania, it is unlawful for a liquor licensee to serve alcoholic beverages to “visibly intoxicated” patrons or minors. This is known as dram shop liability. Dram shop liability imposes a duty of responsibility on bars and restaurants to refrain from serving alcoholic beverages to people they either know or should know are visibly intoxicated or to minors.
Establishments licensed to serve alcohol must cease to serve any alcohol to patrons at the first behavioral sign of intoxication and also refuse to serve patrons who come into an establishment already drunk. The safe and responsible service of alcohol should be a priority, policy, and practice of all bars and restaurants. Bartenders and servers should be trained to spot red flags signaling a patron has had too much to drink, such as fighting, cursing, head-bobbing, unruly, combative or obnoxious behavior, staggering gait, stumbling or uneven balance, slurred speech, glassy eyes and other similar behavioral signs of intoxication.
When bars or restaurants serve alcohol irresponsibly and illegally to visibly drunk patrons or minors, they shouldn’t escape liability or accountability for their own misconduct by simply pointing at the drunk driver as the culprit. When such tragedy strikes, of course the drunk driver must be held responsible for his crimes, but it only makes sense that the bar or restaurant that irresponsibly served alcoholic drinks to the drunk driver causing the car crash should also bear responsibility.