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Alcohol Service Policy Tips

What is a House Alcohol Service Policy?

It's a series of guidelines and/or rules supporting your staff and informing patrons about responsible alcohol service. These same guidelines let your patrons know what they can expect from your establishment. A short form policy that is 7 to 10 key points and can be contained on one sheet or poster for patrons while a long form policy can be developed for staff only, going into greater detail about what is expected from staff in a variety of situations.

What should a typical house alcohol policy include?

It should include a general statement or mission that outlines your commitment to responsible alcohol service. Staff policies should clearly set out management's expectations on:

  • code of conduct
  • responsibility and accountability
  • monitoring of doors and tables
  • checking ID's
  • managing intoxicated patrons
  • when and how to report incidents

These statements should reinforce the LLA and the common law; for example, confirming that it's against the law to:

  • serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 19
  • allow entry to anyone who is already intoxicated
  • serve alcohol to anyone approaching intoxication

Why is it important to have a house alcohol policy?

It provides staff and guests with clear and consistent guidelines on your establishment's approach to responsible service. A well written policy does the following:

  • educates patrons as to what is the law
  • supports your staff in difficult situations
  • if the policy is clearly known by your staff and visible to your patrons it may help if a lawsuit occurs

The most important point about house policies is that staff and management need to follow through on them. For example: allowing one person to continue drinking when service should be stopped can only lead to trouble with that person and any other patron who witnesses it.

Why is it important that house policies be posted for all to see?

Clearly written and visible polices serve as a reminder to all, of your commitment to comply with the law:

  • a policy may be the only information patrons get on the law of alcohol service
  • patrons may take more responsibility for how much they drink if they know what is expected
  • the policy tells patrons what will happen if they do drink too much

It is recommended that the policy be posted at the door/entrance, at all points of sale; in the washrooms; and even as table tents on tables.