Intoxicated Patrons: A St. Patrick’s Day Refresher

Today is St. Patrick’s Day which means big business for the bar industry. It also means that customers are likely to show up at your establishment early, and stay late. Other patrons will spend the day hoping between bars, stopping by for a pint or two before moving onto their next destination. The day should be profitable, and run smoothly, provided you have the proper staffing, security, and management in place.

Though Alcohol & Advocacy encourages all of its readers to be diligent in the service of alcohol every day, on St. Patrick’s Day it is especially important. This means talking to your staff before their shifts begin to remind them of the importance of complying with the Act, monitoring customers throughout the day, and debriefing with staff at the end of the night to ensure that if there were any incidents they have been properly documented.

To avoid a contravention notice wrecking your St. Patrick’s Day, Alcohol & Advocacy reminds all of its readers of the following:

  • The Compliance and Enforcement Division of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch considers intoxication to be a serious public safety issue. This means that your staff must have the same mindset, even on St. Patrick’s Day. Bar staff and security personnel should be reminded of the importance of complying with the Act at regular staff meetings.
  • While most bar staff are aware that it is a contravention of the Act to permit a person to become intoxicated while in your establishment, it is also a contravention to sell liquor to a person already intoxicated (even if they just came from another bar), or to permit an intoxicated person to remain in the establishment. This is important to stress to your staff. It is not a defence to enforcement action to say that “he was drunk when he got here”.
  • The Liquor Control and Licensing Act doesn’t actually define “intoxication”. The Compliance and Enforcement Reference Manual describes intoxication as “a state in which a person’s normal capacity to act or reason is inhibited by alcohol or drugs”. This is not a high threshold, and the enforcement decisions confirm that a finding by the Branch that a patron was intoxicated will always be a subjective and fact-specific enquiry. Be sure your staff know that you will support their decision to cut a customer off when he or she is showing signs of intoxication.

The penalties for over-service start at $5000, and can include a licence suspension of at least four days – even if it is your establishment’s first offence. St. Patrick’s Day or not, the liquor inspectors will be out today expecting that your establishment is operating in compliance with the Act and your terms of licence.  Don’t let your staff’s enthusiasm for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities put a blemish on what should be a profitable day.

*Alcohol & Advocacy publishes articles for information purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal advice, and persons requiring such advice should consult legal counsel.

Dan Coles
Retired bartender. Young lawyer. From the East, living in the West. Interested in British Columbia's producers and purveyors of wine, beer and spirits.

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