Tips on refusing service to patrons

At some point all liquor licensees will be faced with a decision about refusing to serve alcohol to a patron. Whether this decision is based on legal or safety requirements, it is important to deliver a consistent message that all patrons understand.

Licensees, as part of their risk-assessed management plan, may have a written policy that deals with 'refusal of service'. This will give staff a clear understanding of their responsibilities and the steps to be taken when refusing to serve patrons.

The following are some suggested 'do's and don'ts' of service refusal.

Do's of service refusal

  • Do obtain agreement from a supervisor and notify security, if available, before speaking to the patron.
  • Do be polite and avoid value judgements. Use tact - politely inform the patron you will not serve them any more alcohol.
  • Do point to posters/signs behind the liquor service point to reinforce your decision.
  • Do explain the reason for refusal of service (e.g. continued bad language, inappropriate behaviour).
  • Do offer (if appropriate) non-alcoholic beverages instead, or to phone a taxi or a friend to drive them home. It is harder to get angry with someone offering to do something for you.
  • Do make sure that they leave the premises safely and that they do not hang around outside.
  • Do enter incidents relating to refusal of service in a log book, especially those involving threats or aggression.

Don'ts of service refusal

  • Don't call your patron a 'drunk' - warn them politely that their behaviour is unacceptable.
  • Don't be persuaded to give them 'one last drink' after you have stated that they have had enough.
  • Don't agree to let the person finish their drinks (it is an offence under the Liquor Act to allow a minor or unduly intoxicated or disorderly person to consume liquor on licensed premises).
  • Don't raise your voice. If they raise theirs, lower yours.
  • Don't put off refusal hoping that the patron will leave after the next drink - act while the patron can still be reasoned with.
  • Don't judge other people.
  • Don't think the matter is over because you have verbally addressed it.
  • Don't tell them what to do or how to behave.