Magazine article Security Management

One for the Road

Magazine article Security Management

One for the Road

Article excerpt

Hotels and restaurants put themselves at risk each time they serve a customer beer, wine, or liquor. An intoxicated patron can slip and fall, get into a car accident, injure another guest, or get involved in any number of altercations that could lead to a costly lawsuit against the company. In many states, restaurants and hotels can be held liable for an intoxicated customer's actions, even if those actions occur off the company's premises. The result can be the loss of millions of dollars and the business's liquor license.

Despite this risk, most establishments cannot afford to discontinue the sale of alcohol. It is up to the corporate security manager, therefore, to reduce the risk of incidents. An alcohol awareness training program can help by teaching workers how to prevent and recognize intoxication as well as how to handle a drunk customer before someone gets hurt.

The law. Although most states currently leave it up to the company to decide whether to conduct an alcohol awareness program for employees, that is changing. More and more state and local governments are requiring that companies provide awareness training for bartenders, waiters, waitresses, and other employees involved in the sale of beer, wine, and liquor.

According to the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association, alcohol awareness training is required in Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Of these, Delaware, Oregon, and Hawaii have specific state-developed programs that must be used, while Utah has standards that must be included in a company's training program. Five other states - Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, and Arizona - do not require corporations to provide alcohol awareness training, but they have developed standards that must be part of any program given.

In addition to these states, numerous local authorities also have certain requirements. For example, Clark County, Nevada, mandates that all companies conduct alcohol awareness training by county-approved instructors.

Policy. The first step of any program is to write a short but strongly worded alcohol awareness policy that clearly states the company's mission to serve alcohol in a safe and responsible manner. The policy must be signed and supported by the chief executive officer to send a strong message from the top that the corporation will not tolerate irresponsible service. The policy should be distributed to all company departments and be part of the employee manual.

The policy should also support alcohol awareness training to ensure that all employees understand the company's position and their individual roles. At a minimum, bartenders, waiters, and waitresses should be required to participate in the training program. The company should also consider training others who come into contact with intoxicated guests or patrons - valet parking attendants, concierge personnel, conference and meeting planners, guest services staff, housekeeping, and, of course, management.

Choosing a program. A practical training course must have a solid foundation for its focus, a sound track record, and well-balanced content.

Solid foundation. When shopping for a training program, the security manager should ensure that it is based on sound research into alcohol and its effects on people. A quality program should be developed by individuals who are knowledgeable about alcohol abuse, the law, training, psychology and, the restaurant and hotel industries.

The security manager can start by evaluating the educational and professional background of the program's developers. In addition, the security professional should ask for references and call others in the hotel and restaurant industry who have used the program. The state's liquor license authority can help managers assess the professional background of the program developers. In states that require alcohol awareness training, the liquor license authority usually reviews the quality of a program before approving it for use. …

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