Preventing patrons from becoming unduly intoxicated

Licensees and staff are responsible for preventing patrons from becoming unduly intoxicated. You must ensure alcohol is served, supplied and promoted in a way that maintains a safe environment in and around your venue, and preserves the amenity of the nearby area.

Refusing service and preventing undue intoxication

You must put systems in place that ensures staff refuse service to, and prevent drinking of alcohol by, persons who are unduly intoxicated. 

Refusing service can be difficult - even more so when trying to reason with a person who may be irrational, argumentative or aggressive. It is much easier to prevent a patron from becoming unduly intoxicated than to manage it after the fact.

Monitoring and assessing patrons

Licensees and permit holders are responsible for putting a control system in place to monitor and assess people in, and trying to enter, your premises, for signs of undue intoxication and disorderly conduct. Control systems should cover premises entry, bar serveries and consumption areas.

You are expected to tailor controls to each licensed venue you operate. For example, the less open the layout of the premises, the more roaming staff members may be required to monitor for unduly intoxicated patrons. Lighting, noise levels and physical layout must also be considered.

Training staff to control undue intoxication

You must ensure there are adequate procedures and levels of staff training and instruction, to support the control systems in your venue.

As a licensee or permit holder, you will increase your own risk of being penalised for offences relating to unduly intoxicated and disorderly persons if you fail to properly implement and monitor control systems at your venue.

Strategies to prevent undue intoxication

Following are some common sense strategies that can be easily implemented:

  • Stop intoxicated patrons at the front door. Has the patron been drinking? Should the patron be admitted? It is much easier for bar staff if security (or the door person) is able to identify and prevent intoxicated patrons from entering the venue.
  • Monitor the drinking environment. Staff, security and management must work together to continually monitor tables, bars, gaming rooms, function rooms and entertainment areas. This means communicating with each other regularly throughout the trading period.
  • At functions, ensure the host knows that service will be refused to unduly intoxicated patrons, even if it they're paying an all-inclusive price for the function. The host should be involved in any refusal of service as a matter of courtesy and to assist staff.
  • Do not provide multiple drinks tickets. The patron will have an expectation that they will be served.
  • Encourage drinkers to return to their seat or table by removing bar stools and setting up additional tables.
  • Change the visuals – this can reduce the 'bar' feel and discourage excessive drinking.
  • Change the music from continuous background beats to identifiable songs - this allows patrons to acknowledge the passing of time.
  • Make water available and have staff offer it regularly to encourage patrons to pace their alcohol consumption.
  • Encourage patrons to stop drinking or consume non-alcoholic drinks before they reach the point of undue intoxication.
  • Lower the entertainment noise level to allow patrons to talk; this slows down drinking.
  • Have bar staff assess patrons each time they are served.
  • Ensure that lighting is bright enough and sound levels are low enough to enable staff to properly monitor patrons' intoxication levels throughout the venue.
  • Be aware that often a different person will come to the bar for a 'shout'. Observe groups of patrons.
  • Check on patrons who have not approached the bar. The unduly intoxicated patron may be the one sitting in the corner, being supplied liquor by mates.
  • Use signage to indicate that service will be refused.

This list is by no means exhaustive and licensees and staff should share their own successful strategies for preventing patrons from becoming unduly intoxicated.

Providing drinking water

Making drinking water available to patrons is essential to minimising harm and intoxication. Providing drinking water is the responsibility of every licensee.

Under the Liquor Regulation 2002, it is mandatory for commercial hotel licensees, community club licensees, commercial other (bar) licensees, licensees catering a commercial public event and any licensee who trades after 12 midnight to provide cold drinking water free of charge to any patron who requests it, at any time the premises is trading. All other licensees must make cold drinking water available either free-of-charge or at a reasonable cost to patrons when the premises is trading.

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