¶ … bartenders and their responsibility. Specifically it will discuss whether states and communities should hold bartenders responsible for the behavior of their patrons. Bartenders have become the butt of some very serious charges in many communities, because more and more states are holding them accountable for the behavior of the patrons they serve. However, bartenders should not be held accountable for what their patrons do after they leave the bar. Bartenders have no control over that behavior, and they have no way of knowing what patrons will do after they leave. Patrons are accountable for their own behavior, and they should act like adults and take responsibility for their own actions, rather than blaming them on someone else, like a bartender.
Bartenders, as most people know, work behind the bar, serving alcoholic drinks, to people in restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs, taverns and other locations all around the country. They often serve as counselors, confessors, and shoulders to lean on for many of their patrons. Recently, many states have passed laws that hold the bartender and/or owner of the bar responsible if patrons engage in dangerous or illegal behavior after they leave the bar. This is wrong for a number of reasons, and there is growing support of that sentiment.
In a lawsuit happy society, people tend to blame others for their own actions, and that is the case with laws that target bartenders. To be literal, their employers pay bartenders to serve drinks to patrons. That is their job and their main focus. It is not their responsibility to keep track of how much people drink, and what they do after they leave the bar. In fact, knowing their actions once they leave is impossible. One newspaper believes it is ultimately the patron's responsibility to take accountability for his or her own actions. The editors write, "First, it's ultimately the individual's responsibility to drink responsibly. We don't think a bar or restaurant should share the same level of responsibility" (Editors). This is true, but in a society that is lawsuit happy, people do not take responsibility, they lay the blame on others, namely the bartender who served them, and this is putting blame where it does not belong.
In many areas, courts are agreeing with the theory that bartenders are not accountable. In a case in Calgary Canada, a legal case against a bartender was dropped when the courts decided he was not responsible. An Alberta reporter writes, "Two years after a young Alberta woman died of alcohol poisoning after a night at the bar, the criminal charges against the man who served her have been dropped" (Zabjek). The bartender did have to pay a fine, which is not right, because the charges were dropped. Ultimately, the woman drank far too much, but she and her family were responsible for that. Her family should have taught her the danger of drinking too much, and she should have had the common sense to know when to stop. Dieing of alcohol poisoning means she drank an incredible amount of liquor, not just "drunk," but far over the line. She drank herself to death, and the bartender could have no way of knowing what her tolerance was or how much she consumed. Often, more than one server or bartender serves patrons, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with what patrons are consuming.
In many cases, patrons move from bar to bar, and a bartender has no way of knowing what they consumed where. The Suncoast editorial continues, "Who's to say a customer hadn't visited multiple bars in one evening or left the restaurant fine, but downed three more beers in his or her car in the parking lot before being pulled over for driving while intoxicated or becoming involved in an accident?" (Editors). There is certainly no way a bartender can know these things, or have any control over them, so bartenders should not be held responsible in these cases. They are tragic, and it is terribly sad that they occur, but the bartender is not responsible, because they cannot control another person's behavior or judgment. In the Canadian case, apparently the courts agreed. The reporter continues, "Crown prosecutor John Laluk said it would have been difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kobylka hadn't consumed more alcohol after...
It is also impossible for the bartender to know that. They would have to follow each patron after they left the bar, and that is not only impossible, it is ludicrous.
Critics often say that bartenders should know, or should be trained in spotting someone that has had too much to drink. That is impossible too, especially on a busy night. There is no way a bartender can glance at a person, serve them a drink, and know they have had too much to drink. The Suncoast editors agree. They write, "But there are times when someone who is drunk appears to be sober. No amount of training is going to enable a bartender to determine that person should not be served, especially if the bar is full" (Editors). Many people hold their liquor extremely well, and do not show the signs of intoxication.
There is another aspect of this debate that bears notice. Most of the patrons of bars are men, and they go there for a variety of reasons. Challenging them and attempting to moderate their drinking, if a bartender thinks they have had too much to drink, is a challenge at best. A female bartender who wrote a book about her experiences says, "As many observers of bar tavern have noted, bars have traditionally functioned as male enclaves, as places where attitudes, behaviors, and sensibilities associated with male identity are celebrated without challenge to their authority" (Lindquist 47). These patrons do not want to be challenged, and challenging them could lead to violence and/or injury, something that many people do not think about. If a bartender is responsible for cutting off a patron, it can lead to all sorts of things, and many of them could lead to mayhem.
Bartenders are often responsible for checking IDs and assuring that drinkers are of legal drinking age, and bartenders have been prosecuted for allowing underage patrons to drink. This is very difficult for bartenders, too. There is a prevalence of fake IDs that proliferate, especially in college areas, and bartenders often do not know how to spot them, and yet they are the ones held accountable for serving a minor, even if there is a doorman checking IDs. This is not right, either. Many times, these are "sting" operations, and police departments set up the bartender. Reporters in Florida note, "KnightNews.com has confirmed the University of Central Florida has partnered with Orange County officials to establish 'underage drinking enforcement details' targeting UCF area bars through the use of undercover officers" (Staff). While it is commendable that the University of Central Florida is concerned about underage drinking, making the bartender responsible, especially when there was a doorman checking IDs in some of the establishments is just wrong. Bartenders should check IDs, and if they do not, that is very different. However, with fake IDs and other identification so common, it is very difficult for a bartender to get it right 100% of the time.
There is another aspect of this debate that people may not think about or consider. Bartenders are employed to serve drinks; that is their job. If they suddenly become police, cutting off people in the bar, they are not going to be doing their job, and they would probably face termination from their employer. Another reporter notes, "Were your average server to try to enforce the law as written, I suspect he or she would be risking summary termination" (Selley). It is not the job of the bartender to act as the police force. This reporter uses the analogy of a driver driving too fast is responsible for driving to fast, but a driver driving drunk is not, and that is a fine analogy. A speeder cannot blame anyone but himself for getting in the car and driving too fast. A drunk driver, however, can blame the person who served him, rather than himself for getting in the car and choosing to drive in an intoxicated condition. There is something wrong with that logic, and it does not stand up.
That is not to say, however, that bartenders do not have any responsibility. They do have a responsibility to check IDs, and they do have a responsibility to try to get patrons not to drive if they have been in the bar drinking for many hours. Bartenders sometimes take the keys from patrons and call a taxi. However, if society was really worried about drunk driving, they would not set up DUI checkpoints. They would simply have police officers at each bar and pub checking patrons as they left. That would eliminate drunk driving and many fatalities, but that does not occur. Therefore, bartenders should not…
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