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They Should Have Cut Him Off

by Warrick Steabben on February 11, 2015

A recent alcohol-related death in Texas has made the local news: it was judged to be due to the negligence of two bartenders, and the bartenders have been convicted of Serving Alcohol to an Intoxicated Person. Juan Diaz, whose blood alcohol level was at three times the legal limit, was hit by a car while walking home drunk. Part of the notoriety of this case is the relatively stern sentence the bartenders may face: a $500 fine and up to a year in prison. With this in mind, it’s as good a time as any to take a look at how this kind of scenario might play out here in Victoria and think about how the responsible service of alcohol (RSF) is handled.

The Convicted Bartenders and The Now Deceased Patron
The Convicted Bartenders and The Now Deceased Patron

The Laws Surrounding Negligent Service of Alcohol

Australian common law regarding negligent alcohol service and the “duty of care” between establishments and patrons is a little murky, but for the most part, it is fairly lenient on establishments as far as criminal negligence is concerned. That is to say, an alcohol-related death is not likely to end with the imprisonment of bartenders, managers, or establishment owners.

However, this is not to say that servers are off the hook. Far from it; the least you can expect from injuries or deaths related to alcohol over consumption are severe fines for servers, managers, and establishments alike of up to $1,000 for individuals and well into the tens of thousands of dollars for businesses. It’s not unheard of for bars to lose their ability to serve alcohol or to be shut down over repeated infractions.

What is a Bartender to Do?

Negligent alcohol service presents a real danger to intoxicated patrons, and the consequences that an establishment can face, beyond legally mandated fines and investigations, can severely harm business. News gets around, and people tend not to frequent bars that don’t cut their patrons off if they’re dangerously drunk—which is a perfectly reasonable response, to say the least! Even though bartending mostly involves selling drinks, one of the big reasons that people tend bar is to keep patrons safe. Otherwise, we could just use vending machines.

The most important thing you can do is to be able to tell when a patron is in danger of becoming dangerously intoxicated and needs to be cut off. You do not want to put yourself or a patron in a dangerous position in the first place, so this is an absolutely indispensable skill. In addition, Australian law requires servers of alcohol to know the laws surrounding alcohol service and consumption, strategies to deal with drunk driving and excessive consumption, and when you are expected to refuse service to a patron.

RSA Melbourne’s classes cover these subjects and more, so if you’re looking for a job as a bartender, think about taking bartending and RSA courses in Melbourne as soon as possible.