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Author Topic: Serving alcohol to pregnant women
snopes
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Comment: A friend of mine is going through waiter training at a local
restaurant chain franchise. The training is meant to teach things that
aren't necessarily common sense. For example, he and the other trainees
were taught that if they served alcohol to someone who was already very
drunk, and that person got into a car accident later, they could be
legally liable for damage and injuries. Part of the training involves
watching a video of possible situations you could get into, and rating how
well the server in the video handled the situation.

One of the situations was an obviously pregnant woman ordering alcohol.
The waiter in the video decided to bring the woman her drink. Based on
what he'd just learned, my friend rated this as a "bad" response,
suggesting that if the fetus developed Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the
restaurant could be liable. As it turned out, this was the wrong answer.
For justification, the trainer related the following anecdote:

"There is a woman who has 9 children and 125 million dollars. She made her
money by getting pregnant and then going from restaurant to restaurant
ordering drinks. When a restaurant refused to serve her alcohol, she sued
them for discrimination. She did this over and over again until she was
rich."

The moral of the story was: if a pregnant woman asks for a drink, give it
to her. I had a hard time believing this story, so I started googling. I
haven't been able to corroborate or disprove it. I'm inclined not to
believe it, but at the same time, it is being used to justify the alcohol
policy at this popular washington d.c. restaurant, so maybe it has some
credibility. What do you think?

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interupt
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Wow...

So I guess it would fall into 2 points;

1. Discrimination: Refusal to server a customer due to race, creed, pregnancy, status or sexuality.

2. Duty of Care: That an establishment has a Duty of Care to dispense liquor to clients in a safe and responsbile manner.


The anecdote is a little far fetched though. She successfully argued 8 or 9 cases? This would be quite prominent in legal circles I would have thought.

I would have also considered the the establishment would at least be able to successfully defend under Duty of Care provisions that if this person had been going from bar to bar, she would have been pretty under the weather at some point. Also, was she stating she was pregnant or just observed? My understanding from Alcohol Foetal Syndrome is that it hits if women are heavily drinking during the first 6 weeks of a foetus' development during mitochondrial changes.


Mind you the trainer is right. If a pregnant woman wants to down J&Cs (Jack's & Coke) all night let her within the confines of Duty of Care.

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Lady L
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I don't know, I just can't see something like this not hitting the news. And wouldn't the courts notice a pattern forming? I can't imagine they would award millions every time she was refused a drink. Sounds full of poop to me.

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halibut
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A restaurant is a private business. Surely they have the right to refuse service to anyone?
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Rob D / Blackwolf, the yule dodo
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I highly doubt that this is more than an anecdote. Getting more than a million for repeatedly suing people for the same thing over and over again.. That would make people suspicious.

And refusing so serve alcohol to a pregnant woman.

Alcohol in moderation (a glass of wine for dinner or so) is not harmful. But the best course of action, if you are a pregnant woman who is refused to have a glass of wine at a restaurant and you havent overdone it yet, is to smile, thank them and go to another restaurant.

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Kathy B
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From the Bioethics decison notebook
quote:
The other day my best waiter refuses to serve a pregnant woman alcohol, says it's dangerous to the fetus. Today, the woman threatens a law suit, unless I fire the waiter. This time I don't know who's right. Or whose rights I'm responsible for: Customer? Employee? Fetus?"
It does not give answers, just criteria by which to analyze the situation and reach a solution. It cites restaurants being sued for serving drunks, but not for serving a pregnant woman.

Industry could bear brunt of New Mexico's alcohol-service training rules
quote:
True or false: Alcohol is just as dangerous as heroin for pregnant women? That's false, of course. But according to a recently imposed server training curriculum in New Mexico, it's false because alcohol is more dangerous than heroin.
and
quote:
Phil May, professor of sociology and community medicine at the University of New Mexico, was one of the speakers at a conference on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a birth defect caused by the mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. [snip]
May said that in New Mexico, state law banned bars and restaurants from serving liquor to pregnant women or people already drunk. source [note: I have ben unable to find such a law]



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magpie
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Ok, pregnant women drinking alcohol is bad, that's a given. However, how is a barkeep supposed to tell if a women is pregnant? Give her a piss-test before he/she serves a drink? You hear stories all the time about fat women who have babies and are all suprised, "I thought it was gas."

And what if a fat woman comes up to the bar, orders a drink, and she is refused because she looks pregnant but isn't?

Quite simply, unless you have x-ray eyes you don't know whether a woman is pregnant or not.

A case came up in CA where a pregnant woman was riding in the carpool lane, and she contested her ticket because she claimed her fetus was a passenger. The judge threw it out for the same reason, because police officers are not doctors and cannot diagnose a pregnancy.

As for the anecdote, I really don't believe it. Restaurants do have the right to refuse anyone service.

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Silas Sparkhammer
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quote:
Originally posted by mage:
Restaurants do have the right to refuse anyone service.

Well, kinda... Try putting up a sign saying "No Irish" and see what happens...

Silas

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halibut
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If they did that, they may be charged with a different law, but I doubt discrimination.

I don't think a private business has to give a reason as to why they don't want to serve someone. They can just refuse. Of course, it might not help their PR, but I don't think it's illegal.

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Troberg
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If a bartender don't want to serve a pregnant woman and is afraid of the consequences, he/she can easily invent another excuse:

* She looked too drunk
* She did not have an ID
* The credit card reader did not register her card (just don't hold it straight)
* He suspected that she was going to buy alcohol for someone denied for other reasons

At least some of these are fuzzy enough to give plausible denial. A bartender is supposed to make that kind of judgement calls, and I doubt any court would want to make the scared of doing that.

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Floater
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
For example, he and the other trainees were taught that if they served alcohol to someone who was already very drunk, and that person got into a car accident later, they could be legally liable for damage and injuries.

That one has always intrigued me since I first heard about it. How on Earth is the waiter supposed to know that the customer is going to get into a car and drive away?

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Four Kitties
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quote:
Originally posted by halibut:
I don't think a private business has to give a reason as to why they don't want to serve someone. They can just refuse. Of course, it might not help their PR, but I don't think it's illegal.

Yes, it is. If I run a business that is a 'public accommodation,' I'd better have a valid, legal reason to refuse to serve an entire category of people or I will be sued for civil rights violations.

Four Kitties

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LeaflessMapleTree
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Sorry, I can't quote for some reason... but in regards to the fetus as a passenger... wouldn't a better refusal be that according to law, a fetus simply isn't a person, even if the mother can prove her pregnancy?

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Silas Sparkhammer
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quote:
Originally posted by MapleLeaf:
Sorry, I can't quote for some reason... but in regards to the fetus as a passenger... wouldn't a better refusal be that according to law, a fetus simply isn't a person, even if the mother can prove her pregnancy?

That's how *I* would interpret things, but, alas, the prevailing trend in laws is to interpret a fetus as a "person" for various non-abortion issues. For instance, if you shoot a woman and kill her...and her fetus...you can be charged for two murders (in California, anyway...)

Most restaurants (again, in CA, which is my only personal area of knowledge) have a sign posted, warning of the effects of alcohol on pregnant women. (The signs are posted in the restrooms...both men's and women's!) This gives the restaurant *some* legal protection against lawsuits; the pregnant woman can't claim "I didn't know that alcohol was dangerous."

Silas

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TurquoiseGirl
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Part of the problem with not serving pregnant women alcohol is that the effects of alcohol are most severe during the first trimester , sometimes when the woman herself does not know she is pregnant. Therefore if someone were truly being quite careful about FAS, they would refuse to serve any woman of childbearing age at all. Well without a negative pregnancy test. And I'm not sure we want to go there.

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Angel With Wax Wings
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I heard that even ONE glass of wine during the pregnancy can cause FAS...They didn't say in the first 6 weeks. I think I saw this on one of the Law and Order shows that I watch. I'm probably wrong though.

~Monica

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Franny
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My MD told me that no alcohol is safe in the first trimester. After that minimal ETOH is safe - maybe 1-4 servings a week. She told me that they (the medical establishment) tend to tell people NO ALCOHOL IS SAFE because they do not want the brain dead masses to think that if one drink a week is ok then one a day would be ok too. Makes sense to me; I really do believe that the vulgus has no ability to be sensible or moderate and to act with discretion.

Aside: she also told me that they tend to tell mothers who make their first visits to the OBGYN late in their pregnancy that ETOH probably won't hurt their babies - I suppose its the whole closing the barn door after the horses get out (I am not going to say ANYTHING about bathwater).

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quote:
Originally posted by Angel With Wax Wings:
I heard that even ONE glass of wine during the pregnancy can cause FAS...They didn't say in the first 6 weeks. I think I saw this on one of the Law and Order shows that I watch. I'm probably wrong though.

~Monica

Sounds like a scare tactic to prevent women from drinking during pregnancy. At the doctor's office, I would flip through pregnancy magazines and read questions from anguished mothers-to-be, convinced they caused FAS to their babies because they had a glass of wine or champagne prior to knowing they were pregnant. General research seems to indicate that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome occurs much higher in women who are alcoholics or binge drinkers, not the occasional glass of wine consumed every couple of months. Harvard Women's Health Watch advises pregnant women that "having more than one alcoholic drink per day puts the fetus at risk for various defects and disabilities." Still, the safest course is to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy.

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DemonWolf
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quote:
Originally posted by Floater:
quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
For example, he and the other trainees were taught that if they served alcohol to someone who was already very drunk, and that person got into a car accident later, they could be legally liable for damage and injuries.

That one has always intrigued me since I first heard about it. How on Earth is the waiter supposed to know that the customer is going to get into a car and drive away?
First, you gauge the level of intoxication. This is done with a traffic light system. Green, the person is sober. Yellow, the person is a little "tipsy" - he/she is slurring speech a little and has some minor loss of motor function. Red, sloshed - do not serve this person further. If the server observes a person entering alone, the server should inquire about how thew customer plans to get home. When a person whom the server suspects will driving approach yellow, or has had a few (may not show visible signs, but the server is aware of how much the person has had), the server should offer non-alcoholic beverages. If a person who is intoxicated indicates that he/she is planning to drive home, the server should offer to call a cab.
In a Dram Shop case, not only can the bar be held liable, but the server can be held personally liable as well. If you've followed all of the steps above (offered non-alcoholic drinks, offered a cab, cut the parton off) it will be much harder to prove that the bar/server was negligent as they showed that did all that they could to get you home safely.

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Dogwater
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As a former bartender I will put a personal spin on this subject. I've served obviously pregnant women. I kept my thoughts to myself and poured the drink. To me, it's not my call...their body and such. Does the guy at the convenience store balk when that same woman buys a pack of Marlboro's? Does the shoe salesman refuse to sell her a pair of Ef-me heels? Does a cop pull her over if she's on a motorcycle?

I guess I can go on and on. There are plenty of things a woman can do that puts the fetus at risk. It's her call to make for herself and the fetus. Not mine, not the waiter's and not the restaurant's. I can tsk tsk all day, but in the end, it's not my place.

Troberg
quote:
If a bartender don't want to serve a pregnant woman and is afraid of the consequences, he/she can easily invent another excuse:

* She looked too drunk
* She did not have an ID
* The credit card reader did not register her card (just don't hold it straight)
* He suspected that she was going to buy alcohol for someone denied for other reasons

At least some of these are fuzzy enough to give plausible denial. A bartender is supposed to make that kind of judgement calls, and I doubt any court would want to make the scared of doing that.

...OT, but I've used this before. Not on pregnant women, but on those who had a reputation to become quite uncivil after a few pops or who i knew I'd end up cutting off later in the night.

I'd refuse service saying that it appeared to me that they had hit their limit. They'd Mother-Ef me up and down, which would only serve to prove to the manager that I had made the right call [Smile] .

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Floater
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quote:
Originally posted by DemonWolf:
quote:
Originally posted by Floater:
quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
For example, he and the other trainees were taught that if they served alcohol to someone who was already very drunk, and that person got into a car accident later, they could be legally liable for damage and injuries.

That one has always intrigued me since I first heard about it. How on Earth is the waiter supposed to know that the customer is going to get into a car and drive away?
First, you gauge the level of intoxication. This is done with a traffic light system. Green, the person is sober. Yellow, the person is a little "tipsy" - he/she is slurring speech a little and has some minor loss of motor function. Red, sloshed - do not serve this person further. If the server observes a person entering alone, the server should inquire about how thew customer plans to get home. When a person whom the server suspects will driving approach yellow, or has had a few (may not show visible signs, but the server is aware of how much the person has had), the server should offer non-alcoholic beverages. If a person who is intoxicated indicates that he/she is planning to drive home, the server should offer to call a cab.
In a Dram Shop case, not only can the bar be held liable, but the server can be held personally liable as well. If you've followed all of the steps above (offered non-alcoholic drinks, offered a cab, cut the parton off) it will be much harder to prove that the bar/server was negligent as they showed that did all that they could to get you home safely.

That really doesn't answer my question. How is the waiter supposed to know how a customer is getting home and why should he care? It's none of his business.

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diddy
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quote:
why should he care? It's none of his business.

Actually It is. Bars have been held liable for serving to intoxicated people when they get into accidents. If they make an effoert to discourage this activity, it makes suing the bar very difficult. It reduces any liability and makes the bar look conscientious about thier customers.

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YeeMum
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Since ' drunk in public ' is also a ticketable offense the bartender ( I was one for 10 yrs as well) can be looked at as responsible no matter the mode of transportation the customer is using.

Oregon is quite clear in their server training

OLCC see get a service permit

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diddy
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quote:
Originally posted by YeeMum:
Since ' drunk in public ' is also a ticketable offense the bartender ( I was one for 10 yrs as well) can be looked at as responsible no matter the mode of transportation the customer is using.

Oregon is quite clear in their server training

OLCC see get a service permit

But isnt a bars parking lot considered private property. They would have to issue a complaint before someone else could be arrested. By that logic, anyone walking out of a bar after having a few would be "drunk in public"

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YeeMum
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Here is a better link.

And they have to leave the parking lot sometime some how. If they are considered a Visibly Intoxicated Person the 'fault'( another pet peeve) falls on the last person to serve them.


Yee-It's a tough biz-Mum

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Ryda Wong, EBfCo.
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I don't know why any bartender would think they have the right to refuse to serve a pregnant woman in situations where they would serve anyone else. If they think the woman is pregnant, she might very well be planning to abort. Or she might have discussed the situation with her docter, and decided to allow herself one drink a week. Really, what it comes down to is that it's her choice, not the bartender's.

If someone refused me service for such a reason, you'd better be sure I'd seek restitution.

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Mama Duck
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The going medical theory is FAS is caused by binge drinking or heavy drinking. There is some evidence that suggests an increased risk associated with moderate drinking and poor nutrition. There is no correlation between even one drink a day and FAS as far as current studies can conclude. Obviously, a pregnant woman going on a bender is beyond stupid but is not currently illegal either. In any event, one drink a week won't hurt anyone, especially if coupled with proper nutrition and prenatal care.

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diddy
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quote:
Originally posted by YeeMum:
Here is a better link.

And they have to leave the parking lot sometime some how. If they are considered a Visibly Intoxicated Person the 'fault'( another pet peeve) falls on the last person to serve them.


Yee-It's a tough biz-Mum

Im not arguing that. Its in teh best intrest of the bar to make sure that if I choose to heavilly drink that I leave the bars parking lot in the passenger seat of another car. Not in the drivers seat. Thats not public intoxication.

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YeeMum
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We were advised that if the server had a strong personal feeling RE serving a pregnant person ( and how can you really tell)and IF there was no other server available to serve her . Their option was to politely point out what ever warning there might be posted or on the beverage container. Then the concerned server had done their part by serving the person and bringing the 'risk' to light.

Yee-damage control-Mum
Of course if they are Visibly Intoxicated that changes everything

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Posts: 1816 | From: NE, Oregon | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
YeeMum
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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Case in point:
I had an incident where I was assured that "so-and-so" was picking these 4 guys up. they were not too drunk but close enough I asked. Later that night I got a visit from the police at my place of business.
They had rolled the car at high speed and not a sober one in the bunch.
The invesigation did turn up an empty whisky bottle under the seat and one of them admitted they had been drinking it AFTER they left my bar.

I however was facing stiff penalties had this not come to light. I was found innocent but it was not pleasant ( I was risking a fine and loss of OLCC servers permit which ment loss of job anywhere in Oregon)

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Charter member WNDMDC
"I am putting you on hold now.Listen to the elevator music and LIKE it."~My 'J'

Posts: 1816 | From: NE, Oregon | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Gale
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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In Texas, it doesn't matter if it's private property. You can get arrested for DWI if you've got your car keys in your hand standing next to your car in your own driveway. The keys imply control and ready to drive. You're drunk. You can get busted. Doesn't happen, but technically, by law, it could. A bar parking lot may be the bar's public property, but you can still get busted in it or in the very public sidewalk which you have to use to get to the parking lot.

It doesn't matter if they're driving, riding a bike, walking, or getting a piggy back ride like that oh-not-so-cute-Captain-Morgan commercial: you cannot by law serve someone who is obviously intoxicated. Period. I know that seems like a stupid thing to say when we're talking about a bar, but as the law stands, if I serve someone who is over the legal limit, I am responsible for the consequences of his actions to both himself and others. Take enough bartender training and you'll have that drilled into your head til it sticks.

Being reasonable, the cops are not going to come in and give a breathalyser to everyone in the bar on a Friday night. The laws are NOT enforced across the board. But if they stop sixteen people in a night who blow a .12 and seven of them came from the same bar, that bar is going to get targeted. And when, as will happen every couple of years, a college kid has too many shots and is found dead the next morning, the police and DA's office have someone to answer for criminal negligence. For instance, in December, a guy in Austin died with a .5 BAL. That's the equivalent of 22 shots of liquor in one hour.

I'm not crazy about the way the laws are written myself, but if you're a bartender, you accept them and abide by them. Or you generally lose your job.

As for the pregnant woman, never assume. Serve her unless she acts drunk. Then cut her off. Sorry if that seems wrong, but think of it as a pre-existing condition. Plus, there is an acceptable formula for alcohol consumption: blood alcohol level. If you're not her doctor, you can't diagnose pregnancy.

Having the right to refuse service to anyone is a pretty heavy stick. You can't refuse service to any group of people (Irish, black, women, gays), but you can refuse service to any one person at any time or all the time if we're talking alcoholic beverages. I can base it on the fact that you seem drunk or incapacitated (aka, medicated) at the time you ask for service. Or for behavior you've exhibited in the past. People get terminally 86'd or a 6-month 86 all the time. Start fights, come in already drunk, pass out, go to sleep, etc. That stuff's going to get you the boot.

Posts: 4811 | From: Austin, TX | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Gale
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quote:
Originally posted by diddy:
quote:
Originally posted by YeeMum:
Here is a better link.

And they have to leave the parking lot sometime some how. If they are considered a Visibly Intoxicated Person the 'fault'( another pet peeve) falls on the last person to serve them.


Yee-It's a tough biz-Mum

Im not arguing that. Its in teh best intrest of the bar to make sure that if I choose to heavilly drink that I leave the bars parking lot in the passenger seat of another car. Not in the drivers seat. Thats not public intoxication.
I'm afraid it certainly can be. You're in public. You are intoxicated. If a policeman deems you to be a danger to yourself (likely to pass out and die) or others (likely to grab the wheel or interfere with the driver), you are PI.
Posts: 4811 | From: Austin, TX | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
YeeMum
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well said Gayle! [Wink]

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Posts: 1816 | From: NE, Oregon | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
diddy
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quote:
Originally posted by Gayle:
In Texas, it doesn't matter if it's private property. You can get arrested for DWI if you've got your car keys in your hand standing next to your car in your own driveway. The keys imply control and ready to drive. You're drunk. You can get busted. Doesn't happen, but technically, by law, it could. A bar parking lot may be the bar's public property, but you can still get busted in it or in the very public sidewalk which you have to use to get to the parking lot.

It doesn't matter if they're driving, riding a bike, walking, or getting a piggy back ride like that oh-not-so-cute-Captain-Morgan commercial: you cannot by law serve someone who is obviously intoxicated. Period. I know that seems like a stupid thing to say when we're talking about a bar, but as the law stands, if I serve someone who is over the legal limit, I am responsible for the consequences of his actions to both himself and others. Take enough bartender training and you'll have that drilled into your head til it sticks.

Being reasonable, the cops are not going to come in and give a breathalyser to everyone in the bar on a Friday night. The laws are NOT enforced across the board. But if they stop sixteen people in a night who blow a .12 and seven of them came from the same bar, that bar is going to get targeted. And when, as will happen every couple of years, a college kid has too many shots and is found dead the next morning, the police and DA's office have someone to answer for criminal negligence. For instance, in December, a guy in Austin died with a .5 BAL. That's the equivalent of 22 shots of liquor in one hour.

I'm not crazy about the way the laws are written myself, but if you're a bartender, you accept them and abide by them. Or you generally lose your job.

As for the pregnant woman, never assume. Serve her unless she acts drunk. Then cut her off. Sorry if that seems wrong, but think of it as a pre-existing condition. Plus, there is an acceptable formula for alcohol consumption: blood alcohol level. If you're not her doctor, you can't diagnose pregnancy.

Having the right to refuse service to anyone is a pretty heavy stick. You can't refuse service to any group of people (Irish, black, women, gays), but you can refuse service to any one person at any time or all the time if we're talking alcoholic beverages. I can base it on the fact that you seem drunk or incapacitated (aka, medicated) at the time you ask for service. Or for behavior you've exhibited in the past. People get terminally 86'd or a 6-month 86 all the time. Start fights, come in already drunk, pass out, go to sleep, etc. That stuff's going to get you the boot.

Im not talking about driving in your car (nor did I ever imply anything but that), I am talking about the legal prctive of drinking to a point where you shouldnt drive and you get a ride home from another non-drinker or a cab. Unless you shouldnt be drinking in the first place (you become violent). I see no reason to change my opinion that it is in the intrest of the bar to make sure that their customers know about the options to get hoime. Nothing in my posts says otherwise.

But this isnt about public intoxication, this is about serving pregnant woman.

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Posts: 2311 | From: Minnnesota | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Gale
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by diddy:
Im not talking about driving in your car (nor did I ever imply anything but that), I am talking about the legal prctive of drinking to a point where you shouldnt drive and you get a ride home from another non-drinker or a cab. Unless you shouldnt be drinking in the first place (you become violent). I see no reason to change my opinion that it is in the intrest of the bar to make sure that their customers know about the options to get hoime. Nothing in my posts says otherwise.


No, nothing in your posts says otherwise. But the law does in most states. Public Intoxication includes other people's cars, business parking lots, your backyard, etc. I think the law stinks myself. I think the whole idea stinks. Anyone who'd like to change that law will get my whole hearted support. But anytime I have to function under it and run the risk of being penalized for breaking it, I'm going to be a right-wing mofo.
Posts: 4811 | From: Austin, TX | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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