How to Handle an Intoxicated Patron

intoxicated patron
As a bar owner, properly dealing with an intoxicated patron is an important job. Given the sensitive nature of the situation, it never hurts to brush up on the best practices for how to handle an over served customer.

Preventing intoxication is every FOH staff’s responsibility, from the bartenders, to the hosts. Each team member should be held accountable to check ID’s, watch for signs of intoxication, and prevent drunk driving.

In some states, owners can face criminal charges for negligence, so it is imperative to always be vigilant for intoxicated patrons. The following are some standards, and tips on how to keep yourself, and your staff, on the right track.

Warning Signs

There is no specific formula based on height, weight, and gender, for how quickly someone can become intoxicated (especially if they are on medication). It is important to stick with the most tried-and-true method of simply observing your patrons, and staying attentive. Some common behaviors of an intoxicated patron can include:

  • Loud and slurred speech
  • Stumbling
  • Spilling drinks
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Ordering drinks in rapid succession


No one likes to cut off a patron, and in some cases, a bartender slowing them down, can do the trick. If your staff chooses to take this route, they should always let management know first. The following are some clever ways people in the industry have used to slow down a patron:

  • Offer the customer some food
  • Quickly remove any empty glassware
  • Hand them a glass of water
  • Stall (there is no need to ignore the patron, but no need to rush)

Stop Service

Knowing when it is time to completely cut someone off, is the most crucial decision any bartender, or staff member can make. Remember, once they walk out that door, you can be held responsible for anything that happens. If someone can no longer be served in your establishment, keep a few of these helpful tips in mind:

  • Always alert management. Having another person can provide a level of objectivity and authority, to an otherwise unhappy patron.
  • Never cut someone off in front of anyone else, or cause a scene.
  • Quietly inform any person they are with of your decision, and stand firm.
  • Make sure the person has a ride home.

Training and Certification

Since there is a lot of liability involved with serving alcohol, it is best to get focused training through a state sponsored program, to ensure your staff is certified. In some cases, your insurance company may even give you a discount if your employees take the classes. The following are a few resources for training courses:

  • TIPS is the most popular program across the country and is the only one completely dedicated to alcohol training. T.I.P.S. stands for Training for Intervention Procedures and will teach your staff how to prevent, recognize, and report intoxicated patrons.
    *If the program doesn’t offer workshops in your area, you can sign up for online training with your state’s beverage license association.
  • ServSafe Alcohol is a company best known for their food safety training programs, but they also offer classes on alcohol. It is sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, and courses can be taken in either a classroom, or online.

Overall, the proper training, combined with observation, intervention, and execution, will help keep your establishment a safe and fun place for all of your patrons.


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