While owning a bar can be a lucrative source of income, bar owners face unique challenges when it comes to issues of liability. As a bar owner, not only will you have to deal with traditional sources of liability, such as building and safety code violations, but you will also be forced to confront certain types of liability that are unique to Florida bars. In these cases, a workers compensation attorney can assist in protecting your bar from potential civil litigation.
Dram Shop Laws
A dram shop law is a law that provides that a bar or other establishment serving liquor may be held liable for the actions of its patrons. Fortunately, Florida’s laws are more protective of bar owners than many other state laws are. In Florida, bar owners are only liable for the actions of their patrons in two cases. The first case is if the bar sells alcoholic beverages to individuals under the age of 21. In this case, the liability is strict, meaning that it is irrelevant whether or not the individual was known to be under the drinking age. In such a case, it is vital that you immediately contact a skilled workers compensation attorney.
The second Florida dram shop provision mandates that a bar’s owner will be held liable for damages caused by individuals who are known to be habitually addicted to alcoholic beverages. In this case, ignorance of the patron’s addiction is a viable defense. However, proving that the bar’s employees were truthfully ignorant of the situation may require the assistance of a skilled legal firm, such as the Payer Law Group.
Defending Against Dram Shop Liability
Bar owners have a responsibility to comply with Florida dram shop laws in order to avoid facing financial liability or workers compensation claims. Should a lawsuit be filed against the bar, you will be far better off if you can demonstrate that all reasonable measures were taken to ensure that the bar remained in compliance with Florida’s laws.
Because this is a strict liability offense, the only way to protect a bar from liability is to ensure that underage drinkers cannot purchase alcohol from the establishment. It is vital to check the ID of anyone purchasing alcohol, and the staff should be trained in how to recognize various types of false ID. Should any staff member fail to check ID, or knowingly sell alcohol to underage purchasers, you must take immediate action to discipline or fire the employee.
In the case of habitual addicts, the burden facing bar owners is lighter, as there has to be evidence that you knew these individuals were habitual addicts and yet served them anyway. In this case, you should establish policies regarding individuals who become heavily intoxicated while in the bar, including banning them from future visits. In most cases, addicts are clearly unable to control their drinking activity, making singling them out fairly easy for an observant employee.
In addition, individuals who enter the bar in an intoxicated state should be banned from the premises, as it is likely that they have already been removed from other establishments in the area. In this case, your policies should demonstrate that you have made a good faith effort to ensure that no habitual addict will make use of your bar’s facilities.
Ultimately, consulting with the Payer Law Group can help you ensure that your legal liability will not get in the way of running a profitable and rewarding establishment. By complying with Florida dram shop laws, you can protect your bar and its employees alike.