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    Model House Policies

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    Model House Policies

    A guide to developing responsible business practices for on-sale licensees.

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    Download a printable copy of Model House Policies by clicking the PDF download button.



    Your business is very important. It is valuable to you, your community, and to the State’s economy. You have invested your time, energy and financial resources. Your business offers a place that meets local dining and entertainment needs and provides jobs. And did you know the 92,000alcoholic beverage licenses in California make up about 7% of the State’s businesses? Sales and excise taxes on alcoholic beverages generate over $376 million a year in State revenues!

    The best way to protect your valued business is through responsible business practices. Responsible business practices can help reduce your risk of criminal or ABC administrative charges, and civil lawsuits. They also promote profitability and ensure a comfortable and safe environment for customers.

    You should document your responsible business practices in the form of written house policies. If you have none, each employee may have his or her own idea about what the rules are, what they mean, and when they should be applied.

    This pamphlet will assist you in developing your own house policies. You may want to use our “Model House Policies” or adapt them to fit your needs. In the long term, the responsible business will build a strong and loyal customer base.  The content in this pamphlet are suggestions and does not constitute legal advice by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

    Guidelines for Writing Policies

    You may have any company policy that does not conflict with existing laws (for example, no discrimination).

    It is always good to obtain ideas from your managers and employees when writing new policies. They will be more supportive of policies they helped to create.

    Make sure policies are clear and specific.

    Provide all employees with a copy of the policies.

    To ensure that employees understand their duties, have them sign an Employee Responsibility Statement (see sample on last page). Keep this in each employee’s personnel file.

    Reinforce policies by giving regular training to employees.

    Between trainings, hold regular staff meetings. At the meetings, discuss the rules, recent problem situations, and ways to prevent future problems.

    Advise employees that you will spot check their compliance with the policies. Give them a regular performance review.

    Reward employees who do a good job.

    Remember: Written policies, good communication, and a supportive environment will go a long way toward the success of your business

    Example Policy Memo

    To:All EmployeesFrom:ManagementSubject:House Policies


    It is everyone’s job to ensure patrons who are buying or drinking alcohol are at least 21 years of age.

    We will request proof of age (I.D.) from any patron who appears 30 years of age or younger. To help employees do their job, managers will post the following sign in the business:

    “NOTICE: Our employees request I.D. from any patron who appears to be under age 30. Thank you for your cooperation.”

    We have the right to, and will, refuse service to any patron who cannot produce proper I.D.

    We will know what a real California driver’s license and I.D. card look like.

    We may accept the following as proof of age:

    California driver’s license

    California identification card

    Military identification


    We may also accept the following documents as I.D., but only if we know what they look like.

    Other state-issued driver’s license or state-issued identification card

    When selling pitchers, we will request an I.D. from each person who receives a glass.

    We will use a pre-printed age chart as a quick way to figure age. The age chart, which says, “To Buy or Consume Alcohol, You Must Have Been Born on or Before [date],” will be updated daily.

    We will use separate types of glassware to distinguish alcoholic drinks from non-alcoholic drinks.

    When an underage patron moves from one station to another, servers will tell each other.

    If we must refuse service, we will tell a supervisor.

    Advertising, Promotions and Pricing

    We will maintain an atmosphere that promotes socializing. We will provide things to do other than drinking.

    Advertising materials and campaigns will not use alcohol as the main way to attract patrons.

    We will not use promotions that encourage intoxication. There will be no drinking contests. We will not advertise, “Buy one drink, get one free”, “two for the price of one”, or “all you can drink.” (These are against the law.)

    We will not offer free alcohol or sell them below cost. This is against the law.

    We will not lower alcohol prices to promote sales.

    There will be no “Happy Hour” because this promotes too much drinking. We will use food or entertainment for cocktail hour specials. For example, we will have a “Hungry Hour.” Appetizers will be free or offered for a low admission price.

    This brings in patrons and holds down intoxication.

    Source : www.abc.ca.gov

    Implementing Responsible Alcohol Service in Your Establishment

    Denying service to an intoxicated guest is never easy. Smooth it over with specific policies to ensure responsible alcohol service in your establishment.

    Implementing Responsible Alcohol Service in Your Establishment

    by Sirvo Team | Dec 19, 2016

    Each state regulates alcohol — from its manufacturing, to selling, and the actions resulting from its use. This includes assessing the liability of any violations. If you serve alcohol in your restaurant, it is important that you and each staff member are aware of the laws, rules, and best practices in your state. Serving alcohol involves many risks.

    The failure to act responsibly may result in fines, loss of your liquor license, increased costs of insurance, or even imprisonment. Ultimately, it could result in losing your business.

    Consequences of Serving an Intoxicated Guest

    In almost every state, it is illegal to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person. There are numerous types of liabilities associated including criminal, administrative (liquor control commission), and broad civil liabilities via the Dram Shop Law. Therefore, it is imperative that you develop specific policies that ensure the responsible serving of alcohol in your establishment. This includes having a clear concise process for the difficult situation of denying service to an intoxicated guest.

    Alcohol Awareness Training

    Most liability insurances now require that all members of a restaurant, bar, or tavern staff undergo this type of training. Additionally, it is important because it helps underscore the importance of responsible service as well as the consequences of failing to do so. It also provides bartenders and servers with a factual base that enables them to make informed and often difficult, service related decisions with confidence. In addition to outside training, it is important that you have internal policies that define what to do when faced with these judgment calls.

    The failure to act responsibly may result in fines, loss of your liquor license, increased costs of insurance, or even imprisonment.

    Situational Awareness Training and Empowerment

    Each member of your staff, no matter if they serve alcohol are important in the success of these policies, as often situations like these can be prevented. Train your staff to be observant. They should be listening and watching what is going on in your restaurant. Encouraging them to use their best judgment, empower each staff member to report any person or group they believe may present a problem. This is the best opportunity you have to prevent an incident from occurring. Once a report has been made, that is the time to have a manager or the owner drop by the table, speak to the patron, further assess the situation, and perhaps intervene.

    Other Preventative Measures

    Servers and bartenders keep track of how many drinks have been served.

    Don’t serve drinks ordered for someone who is not yet present. As this person could already be intoxicated or perhaps even underage.

    Have a visible authority presence in the bar area. This could be security or management.

    Have signage posted with your policy

    …it is important that they have the trust and support of management.

    Tips to Refusing Service to an Intoxicated Patron

    Because this is a judgment call that servers and bartenders are in the best position to make, it is important that they have the trust and support of management. Having a written policy that outlines the process is also helpful. These factors make it easier for them to exercise good judgment of how and when to refuse service. Robert Plotkin, founder of Bar Media offers the following advice on how to cut off an intoxicated guest.

    When in doubt – don’t serve- Make this your policy. Because of the potential liability, isn’t it better to err on the side of caution?Keep it simple- In the fewest words possible, explain that as a matter of policy, you will not be serving any more alcohol.If possible, be discreet- There is no need to cause a scene that may embarrass the patron and potentially provoke an incident.Utilize tact and diplomacy- Avoid using inflammatory language, disapproval, or criticism.Remain firm- Once you have committed to this decision there is no turning back. To do so would undermine your credibility and authority.Keep everyone in the loop- Notify the other staff and servers so that they do not mistakenly serve the guest additional alcohol.

    For general precaution, management on-duty should be notified to take any further action needed, allowing the bartender or server to resume their regular roles. Management should determine whether to offer and arrange alternate transportation for the patron.

    Keeping the patrons safe from harm and your establishment safe from liability is a job that falls to every employee. Knowing when and how to cut off an intoxicated guest is a judgment call often left to the bartender and servers. It is sometimes awkward and difficult, however, with proper training, guidelines, and internal support it can be accomplished with dignity and tact.

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    Source : sirvo.com

    4 Keys to Managing Responsible Alcohol Consumption in Restaurants and Bars

    Restaurants and bar owners face a precarious balancing act when it comes to serving alcohol. Balancing Alcohol Sales vs Responsibility On one hand the critical goal of the operation is to promote alcohol sales so the business can be as profitable as possible. Operators also want to promote a good time so guests will feel […]



    4 Keys to Managing Responsible Alcohol Consumption in Restaurants and Bars

    Alan Someck

    Restaurants and bar owners face a precarious balancing act when it comes to serving alcohol.

    Balancing Alcohol Sales vs Responsibility

    On one hand the critical goal of the operation is to promote alcohol sales so the business can be as profitable as possible. Operators also want to promote a good time so guests will feel happy being there and continue to consume alcohol and spend money.

    On the other hand, owners need to be extremely vigilant so as to not allow alcohol consumption to cross the threshold of guests being too intoxicated which could result in the operation being highly exposed to dangerous liability. Owners can potentially lose their liquor license, their business and face significant financial loss if an intoxicated guest endangers themselves, another guest or staff member or someone out in public if they get into an accident while driving away from the restaurant. In addition, owners can risk fines, penalties or jail time involving criminal and/or civil liability.

    Let’s review the 4 key areas a food and beverage establishment needs focus on in their operation to greatly reduce any damaging liability when it comes to alcohol service.

    1. Owner Attitude and Actions

    As with so many issues in a food and beverage operation, the attitude and actions of the owner sets the tone and example for the staff and guests. A lax owner who just focuses on maximizing profit without considering over consumption of alcohol will foster an environment where there are very few limitations. Staff looks to the owner for cues on how to behave in relation to serving alcohol and monitoring its effects.

    Guests also quickly pick up on what is acceptable concerning alcohol service. The first line of defense for a restaurant or bar is the firm commitment by ownership to develop and expect responsible alcohol serving practices from their staff.

    2. Restaurant Hiring Practices

    To implement responsible alcohol service, a capable staff with the right attitude is necessary. This can be developed by hiring people who will carry out the operation’s desired practices.

    One common major failing in the food and beverage industry is the inability of owners to know how to hire and what to look for in new staff. Just because someone worked in a bar does not necessarily mean they will be the type of person to support the alcohol service goals.

    Owners need to be able to clearly assess through insightful questions and listening who would be a potential good fit for their operation. It’s extremely difficult to create a good working culture in a food establishment. Without staff having the right attitude and temperament, it becomes next to impossible.

    The bottom line is operators need to become masterful in the hiring process.

    3. Training and Reinforced Training

    This is an area that often gets overlooked in the busy day to day of running a bar or restaurant. As many staff as possible should be required to take a national alcohol training course such as ServSafe Alcohol or TIPS.

    Ownership needs to back that up by bringing up alcohol related issues in pre-shift meetings and in their moment to moment oversight of their business. They need to continually remind staff to pay attention to all aspects of alcohol service.

    As a further protection, it would be a good idea to have staff retake the alcohol trainings every 2-3 years. So much of creating a great operating restaurant or bar is effectively reminding staff to do what they already know what they need to do.

    Some key basics, which can be found in the alcohol trainings, are identifying the specific visible signs of intoxication and knowing techniques and strategies to mitigate alcohol’s impact on the body given that the liver processes only one alcoholic drink per hour.

    In addition, all staff need to consistently practice a clear set of guidelines concerning the checking of guest ID’s.

    4. Monitoring Guest Behavior

    Monitoring guest behavior can be very challenging, especially in a very busy operation where so much of the focus is to efficiently serve alcohol and food to guests and build up check averages.

    It is imperative that in addition to staff having the awareness of the visible signs of intoxication, they need to act decisively when affirming a guest’s intoxicated behavior. They must also have the confidence to de-escalate a tense situation through various methods such as involving a guest’s friend to help calm an agitated intoxicated customer.

    Knowing how to manage a guest wanting to leave the establishment while clearly intoxicated is another critical condition to manage. Staff must be skilled in convincing a guest to not drive and there may be times where it may be appropriate to call the police if the guest driving away will potentially pose a danger to the public.

    There needs to be free flowing lines of communication between staff and management. Staff has to ask for help when they may feel overwhelmed by a situation. Managers should ABM (Always Be Moving) to provide support and oversight of the entire operation on an ongoing basis. No matter how busy the operation, they need to remind staff to keep tabs on how much guests are consuming and know when and how to cut off a guest or support staff in doing so.

    Source : cayugahospitality.com

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