Refusing alcohol service to an intoxicated patron

RSA Course and Certificate

Etiquette, rules and ideas

Alcoholic drink intoxication is the mental condition or the altered state of mind due to excessive alcohol consumption. Here an intoxicated person drinking alcohol might be affected depending on the amount of alcohol consumed. The magical content of Ethanol in those beverages consumed by the individuals during their own “Happy Hours” makes them all intoxicated, disturbing physical poise and mental stability.

It is a mandatory rule in Australia to adhere to the RSA [Responsible Service of Alcohol] laws. As per one of the rules mentioned in the RSA course, ‘An intoxicated patron could be refused any further service by the licensed owner of the premises to avoid any unforeseen and unpleasant situations.’ According to this regulation: bartender/steward/ a waiter can recognise the potentially intoxicated patron as:

  • This gives room for the safety of the licensed premises.
  • Consumption of alcohol any further may place other patrons and the staff at risk.
  • To avoid complications over litigation for the licensee.

If the staff does not act on their responsibilities as per the RSA, they can get prosecuted. The licensee and staff can be held accountable for not abiding by the law if an intoxicated patron jeopardises their life or the lives of the other patrons/customers/staff members. So, refusing service to an intoxicated patron is not only the responsible thing; it’s also the law. By following your state’s RSA legislation, you can create a safe environment and help ensure that all patrons have an enjoyable experience at your bar.

The roads are not always rocky! We might hardly encounter such people who would try hard not to accept your service refusal. Most of the time, the patrons gracefully accept your value judgements and put an end to their alcohol consumption for the day. But the real challenge is when a highly intoxicated patron, unaware of their behaviour, tries to decline your refusal of service in many ways. Those are the times when you would have Galaxy Training Australia’s winning ways & knowledge to tackle this mammoth task. Here are some etiquette, rules and ideas of ‘Refusing alcohol service to an intoxicated patron’: 

Identifying an Intoxicated patron 

  • Assessment of the level of intoxication: Check for information like the kind of drinks served and duration of alcohol consumption. A strong smell of alcohol near the person, and their behavioural changes are apparent signs of intoxication. If in doubt, confirm it by personally attending to them, striking up a conversation with them, or keen observation for a while.
  • Changes in the behaviour: This is the obvious and the most prominent reason you start the procedure of refusal of service. Suppose a patron does some hideous acts that disturb the tranquil premises or even fellow patrons. In that case, this is the time you would head towards the red signal for the patron. Aggressive body language and profanity in the tongue are evident signs.

Refusing alcohol service - Do’s

What do you say when refusing alcohol service to an unduly intoxicated customer? How do you politely & professionally refuse alcohol?

  • Politely inform and explain the reason (showing signs of intoxication) for the service refusal, point to the RSA signage, describe the house policy, and refer to the legislation and penalties relating to the offences. Using a subtle tone, gentle gestures, and pleasant language could do the initial magic. Not losing your cool is the only option. Don’t be straightforward and blunt - this may make them more aggressive, leading to complications.
  • Speaking some out-of-the-box sentences instead of a plain “NO” can be beneficial. Some tips for you: Nice to see you today, see you tomorrow!  Could we get you a cab?  Don’t you have anyone waiting at home? I guess it’s late.  Guess your hands need rest. Let me take your glass.
  • Putting up boards and signage regarding the same rule everywhere on the premises visible to any patron. This, to a certain extent, prevents the drama.
  • Providing them with alternatives like a glass of water or some gourmet food would ease their urge to have more. Asking them to try some non-alcoholic drinks with a fancy name and evoke curiosity to try one, claiming to be their specialty!
  • Offer to phone a taxi or a friend to drive them home. It’s more difficult to get upset with someone willing to assist you.
  • Escalate to your manager and/or security staff if need be.
  • It is also essential to advise management and other bar employees that the individual was not served liquor, so they are not served by someone else.
  • Ensure that the patron departs in a timely manner – Patrons must be asked to leave and not allowed back in once they have become intoxicated. They will need to leave even if they have accepted your offer of a non-alcoholic drink. You must ensure that they leave the premises safely and do not linger outside.
  • Keep a log book of each service refusal incident, especially threats or aggression.

Refusing service or drinking alcohol - Dont’s

  • Don’t insult the patron by calling them a “drunk.” Instead, politely inform them that their actions are unacceptable.
  • After you’ve said they’ve had enough, don’t be persuaded to give them “one last drink.”
  • Refuse to let the individual finish their beverages. (It is a breach of the Liquor Act for a licensee to allow a minor, inebriated, or disorderly person to consume alcohol on the premises.).
  • Don’t get riled up. If they raise their voice, lower yours.
  • Don’t procrastinate refusal of service, hoping that the customer will go away after the next drink; act while you still can persuade him. 

If refusing the service of alcohol, all parties have the right to be respected.

When working on authorised premises, check the venue’s refusal to serve alcoholic drinks. Suppose you are confident that your reason for not serving a drink is non-discriminatory. In that case, you can proceed to what you have opted to do. You should also know that the client may be able to file an action with an anti-discriminatory commission if they feel unfairly discriminated against. 

Managing unduly intoxicated patrons on premises

Managers should always support employees who refuse to service patrons deemed intoxicated. Overruling staff member decisions can increase the chance that someone is being served alcohol or intoxicated later on. It increases the risk of severe sanctions against personnel, licence holders, or managers.

Maintaining a polite, firm approach when dealing with intoxicated customers is critical. If you find someone intoxicated, consider talking to that patron. Consider interacting with the friend of an unduly intoxicated customer to explain why service will be refused. Advise them that their companion will no longer be served alcoholic beverages and seek help safely transport the unruly customer home.

The license holder has discretion in dealing with intoxicated clients. You may be concerned that evicting an inebriated client will endanger their ability to get home safely. In certain instances like this, you may decide to:

  • Allow the customer to wait for friends to finish their drinks before returning home.
  • Allow the customer to wait for a spouse or friend to pick them up or for a staff member to finish their shift before dropping them off at home.
  • Assist them in getting clean, and provide them with water, coffee, non-alcoholic beverage, food, and time to sober up before traveling by public transport. 

How do I ask someone to leave the premises as per responsible service of alcohol?

Ask the client to leave. Inform other bar staff members and management immediately of your decision. Upon entering the room, make sure the security personnel have been contacted if there is a threat to you. There is always a procedure involved in adhering to which a bar owner/manager can request a patron to leave the place. 

When an intoxicated patron who is refused service remains on the premises

It is not a breach of a licensee’s code of conduct if an unduly intoxicated person remains on the licensed premises, as long as they are closely monitored.

The licensee is in charge of maintaining a safe environment. The licensee must ensure that an unduly intoxicated customer is closely watched, has no further access to alcohol, and does not damage the amenity of the surrounding area. 

Removing unduly intoxicated patrons from the venue

The licensee or permit holders may refuse entry or demand departure if the person is intoxicated. It is against the law for a drunk person to be on licensed premises. Those requested to leave licensed premises must immediately leave.

It is an offence for a customer to remain on the premises after being asked to leave or enter after being refused access. In this instance, the licensee, permit holders, their staff, and representative have the right to utilise any force deemed appropriate to remove the client. 

What action can you take if a customer who is refused service continues to act disorderly?

An RSA licensee should seek the help of cops as the premises owner themselves could be penalised for not stopping an intoxicated person consume excessive alcohol. 

These are some of the best practices for refusing the further services of alcohol to an intoxicated patron. Suppose the license holder fails to do so. In that case, they might be under the risk of losing their license as serving alcohol to an already intoxicated individual is also a violation.

Both serving and consumption of alcohol come with much responsibility. It is always advisable to have fun responsibly, not at the cost of your health and the bar’s reputation. 

Registered training organisations conducting the RSA course must ensure that the course covers refusing service to intoxicated patrons, as this is a crucial component of responsible alcohol service. Course attendees must be given the opportunity to practice refusing service to intoxicated patrons in a safe and supportive environment. Trainers must provide feedback to course attendees on their performance in refusing service to intoxicated patrons to develop the necessary skills to refuse service safely and effectively.