Bars shouldn’t serve intoxicated patrons

Anyone who serves alcohol to patrons in South Carolina bars or restaurants needs to be trained to recognize the signs of intoxication and how to diplomatically cut drunk customers off.

Some programs are available to teach bartenders how to deal with excessive drinkers, but the programs are voluntary. A bill slated to be filed in the upcoming Legislative session would require mandatory training for all south Carolina bar and restaurant workers who serve alcohol.

A similar bill was introduced last year but it died in committee. We hope the new bill fares better this time around.

Mandatory training could go a long way in reducing the number of overserved customers and, consequently, the number of people killed or injured as a result of drunken drivers. While no solid figures are available, lawyers across the state say there has been a spate of lawsuits against bars and restaurants that kept serving customers after it was evident they were intoxicated.

These can be tough cases for attorneys to argue. Plaintiffs usually must provide evidence such as video surveillance footage, credit card receipts showing when drinks were served, and witnesses to convince a jury to award damages.

But in a successful case, the damages can be substantial, sometimes in the millions of dollars. Owners of establishments that serve alcohol need to recognize that teaching their bartenders to recognize intoxicated customers and stop serving them can help protect not only of customers but also of the establishments themselves.

We realize that servers and other personnel in a bar or restaurant can’t be held entirely responsible for their customers’ behavior. In a crowded, busy bar, it might be hard to keep track of who drinks what, especially if customer are intoxicated before they arrive.

But a law requiring bartenders and others to learn how to spot the danger signs and take steps to prevent a customer from drinking too much is both reasonable and in the best interests of the establishments and their patrons.

Some bars and restaurants no doubt run up the bar tabs for customers despite the possibility that they might later get behind the wheel of a car. But most respectable establishments would rather have all their customers arrive home safely and without incident, even if it cuts slightly into their profit margins.

Overserving customers can have deadly results. Bars and restaurants can ensure that their servers know how to recognize intoxicated customers and what to do about it or face the potential consequences in court.

We think serving a shot of prevention is better than another drink.