You might think that a bar fight is most commonly the #1 reason bar owners face lawsuits but it is not. Did you know that a bar fight isn’t commonly started between two guys fighting over a woman? Getting removed “kicked-out” or “ejection” is the more precipitating event. From our research, we discovered that more than half of the bar fights started when a too-drunk patron was asked to leave and refused to do so. In these cases, the bar back or the bouncer attempts to escort the drunk out of the building, the drunk refuses to cooperate, and if the escorting turns in to physical handling, the drunk will wrestle away and attempt to run back in the bar. You would think that running back inside a place whose employees are trying to throw you out was a bad idea… but we’re sure that watching a drunk -person insist on staying at a bar that is in the moment kicking them out, must look comical.
While the possibility of being sued cannot be eliminated, bar & nightclub owners can dramatically reduce the odds by paying attention and taking some basic steps to manage risk.
Most Common Lawsuits:
- Slip and falls: The National Restaurant Association confirms that slips and falls are the most frequent general liability claims made across the industry.
What bar owners should do: To reduce the possibility of a slip-and-fall accident, first have a policy put in place. Having a written policy will go a long way in a trial to convince the jury that the business owner is concerned about the safety of his or her patrons. Be specific in this policy to cover routing spills by customers and employees, as well as any other reasons surfaces may become slippery should be in the policy details.
- Fights between customers: The second most common lawsuit filed against bar owners involves injuries that arise out of altercations between customers, especially when excessive alcohol consumption intensifies the situation.
What bar owners should do: Establish a “hands off” policy, that the staff will not touch a guest in any fashion. If a guest is asked to leave, but refuses to do so, the police are simply called.
- Fights between staff and patrons: When removing an intoxicated customer from the establishment altercations between the customer and employee often break out. These fights involving the bouncer or other staff, are the harder cases for owners to win and this is primarily why bar owners should establish the written “hands off” policy in great detail.
What bar owners should do: Establish a “hands off” policy and will not touch a guest in any fashion. If a guest is asked to leave, but refuses to do so, the police are simply called.
- Overserving: Serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated patron or minor is a common lawsuit with bars. While a restaurant or bar is no longer liable for serving excessive amounts of alcohol to a patron, the establishment can still be liable for serving an obviously intoxicated patron or minor.
What you should do: Prevention is straightforward within two basic measures. First, have a written policy about not over serving alcohol to seemingly intoxicated customers. Second, have a policy for I.D. checks that is strictly enforced.
- Food Prep / Service:Lawsuits arising out of food poisoning and foreign substances are less frequent than any of the above mentioned type lawsuits.
What bar owners should do: Taking great care in controlling the quality and safety of the food served will minimize exposure in these areas. Even if this requires hiring an expert food handler or experienced cook who takes ownership in their food preparation, this is well worth the investment. Make sure written materials regarding proper training and sanitation practices are followed. Make sure your establishment is compliant with health and sanitation requirements from the city.