Avoid Dram Shop Issues at all Costs


Randy Durnal on Avoiding Dram Shop Issues

We have all heard the horror stories behind drinking and driving, whether or not we have been immediately affected by the scenario, it always hits home. Now this act is obviously avoidable but the reality of the situation is people continue to partake in this illegal and dangerous deed. As an owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your patrons from over consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel. While you do not have direct control over everyone’s actions, you do have the ability to promote designated drivers and teach your staff to watch for over consumption.

In order to instill in owners the severity of dram shop issues, other than the obvious repercussions of driving while intoxicated, it is important to understand the legal implications bar owners can find themselves in when an accident that occurs comes from their venue.

Nightclub & Bar spoke with CEO of Alcohol Management Services, Inc. and liability speaker, Randy Durnal, to get the lowdown on the seriousness of dram shop problems.

Durnal explains that DUI charges and alcohol related accidents can be tied back to the bar and severe consequences can be imposed upon the bar or the bartender.  A plaintiff’s attorney can pull up police responses to a specific bar’s address. In other words, the police are keeping records of every accident or DUI that is tied to your establishment.

The worst case scenario is being sued and losing. While a bar’s insurance will usually pay the claim, it still damages the reputation of the venue. “Chain operations are particularly leery of the stigma of getting sued, says Durnal. “The best case scenario doesn’t really exist because when you are sued, it means your operation over-served and as a result the driver you allegedly over-served has either killed or hurt someone.”

Durnal advices all bar owners to teach their staff to use a BAC chart and count drinks, taking into consideration the person’s size. The chart speaks for itself. If you want to stop drunk driving, do not serve an individual beyond or up to a .08. If you follow this chart, Durnal tells us is will help to prevent drunk driving.

Designated driving is a tool widely known in the industry, however, Durnal points out that it gives a very false sense of safety. Bars should not rely on this program heavily because it implies it is okay to over-serve as long as they have a DD present.

While designated driving is encouraged, the main goal is keeping everyone that enters your venue safe. Urge patrons to use a DD and teach your staff the proper methods to make sure over-serving is a nonexistent issue in your establishment.


The Nightclub & Bar Show is the industry's largest annual gathering of bar, beverage and nightlife professionals. The 30th Anniversary Event will take place March 30-April 1, 2015 in Las Vegas. For more information about the Nightclub & Bar Show or Randy Durnal's session, visit ncbshow.com.