Understanding the Moral and Legal Obligations of Bartenders

Nancy B. Alston

The choice to pursue a career as a bartender can be a very good one – it can lead to a lifelong career that offers good compensation and the chance to interact with a wide variety of people. However, it is also a choice that brings with it some significant obligations and responsibility. If you are not prepared for the obligations that come with the position, you might find yourself in a very difficult situation. The best way to prepare yourself for the responsibilities and obligations of tending bar is to go through a bartending school.

Moral Obligations of Bartenders

To the casual observer, tending bar is a pretty simple thing. You note what your patrons order, serve it to them and then take their payment. You also get to listen to their jokes and stories, interact with them and get to know your “regulars”. While all of that is true, there’s much more to the position. In fact, you’ll find that you are morally obligated to your patrons.

You are morally obligated to take care of your patrons. That means you have to watch for their best interest and take action against things that can cause them harm. For instance, if you over serve a patron, they could do something to injure themselves and others. Their judgment becomes impaired and they lose the ability to make reasoned, logical decisions. That can lead to a host of unwanted situations, including drunk driving, injuries and even fatalities. As a bartender, it’s your responsibility to prevent that from happening.

Legal Obligations of Bartenders

In addition to the moral obligation of taking care of those you serve, you also have legal obligations. If you over serve someone and they leave your establishment only to be involved in a drunk driving accident, you can be held responsible. Not only will you have to live with the knowledge that you were the one who over served the drunk driver, and are at least partially responsible for injuries or fatalities in the accident, you can also be held legally responsible.

Over serving your patrons is a crime. Charges can be leveled against the bar or restaurant in which you work, and you can even find yourself facing jail time because of your personal involvement in the case. Obviously, you need to ensure that you do not over serve your customers so that you can prevent these types of repercussions.

An Education Helps

Perhaps the best way to ensure that you are able to enjoy this rewarding career and still serve your patrons responsibly is to have a good education from a qualified bartending school. Of course, such a school will teach you about mixing and pouring drinks, but you’ll also learn how to identify the signs that someone you’re serving might have had too much and how to deal with those situations correctly. Getting an education from a qualified bartender school is the only way that you can ensure you live up to your moral and legal obligations.

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