Learning Signs of Intoxication - Not Just a Liability

By Toronto Bar School, 5/19/2023

Learning signs of intoxication is a critical skill for a bartender or mixologist

Have you been belly up to the bar, enjoying a drink, after a long day of work? All of a sudden the person next to you is yelling, slurring, and being a general nuisance. As a patron it is unsettling and as a bartender, it can be dangerous to you and your guests.

How can you prevent your guests from becoming too intoxicated and what steps can you take to make sure you are spotting the warning signs at your bar? This article will take you through the signs of intoxication and how to prevent overserving your guests. Keep reading to find out ways to spot someone who has consumed too much alcohol and some of the proper ways to handle the situation.

Knowing if Your Guest is Intoxicated

Serving alcohol comes with a set of responsibilities, knowing if your guests are intoxicated is chief among them.

Serving alcohol comes with its set of responsibilities and one of the most important is making sure your guests do not over-consume alcohol. The safety of your guests is always a top concern. Not only could it cause harm to you and others around you, but it could also result in a huge liability for you and your business.

Intoxication cannot always be assumed and if you manage to accuse the wrong person, you could find yourself in hot water. Even if someone looks intoxicated, they might not be. The best advice would be to monitor your guest, being discreet as possible and over time, try to observe more than one hint of intoxication. Here are some of the top signs that a person is intoxicated:

Appearance: This could include anything you notice about the appearance of a guest. Their cheeks might be flushed or they might appear fatigued, even “passing out.” You most likely will be able to smell a strong odour of alcohol on their breath.

Keep in mind some people might have naturally rosy cheeks or might be tired for other reasons and that is why it’s important to try and find more than one sign.

Coordination: When an individual has had too much to drink they will often show signs of staggering and unable to keep their balance. Your guest might be sitting for a long period of time, so if they take a bathroom break, this is a good time to take note.

One of the most common signs of intoxication is slurred speech and it is pretty easy to detect if you are carrying on a conversation with all of your patrons.

Repetition is another sign. Someone who is intoxicated will often repeat something they have said or introduce the same conversation you just had. Their memory is foggy due to alcohol consumption.

Personality: One of the most dangerous signs of intoxication is becoming overly aggressive and this is where you could be putting yourself and others in jeopardy.

Knowing the signs is going to help you spot a guest who should not be served any more alcohol but, again, it is also important to make sure you are spotting more than one sign.

How to Safely Handle an Intoxicated Guest

Knowing how to safely handle an intoxicated guest is as important as knowing how to make drinks

Being in the business of serving alcohol can have its set of challenges. Just like you would be a proper host when having company over at your home, the same should go when you are serving someone at your bar. You wouldn’t let a friend drive home drunk after they had dinner and drinks at your place. The same goes for people enjoying their night at your bar.

That is why it’s important to do your due diligence not to over-serve your guests and know the signs of someone who should be cut off. People enjoy getting out and having drinks or celebrating with friends. It doesn’t mean you can’t pay attention to consumption and try to pace your guests to avoid overserving.

Don’t let it get to the point where you have an angry and aggressive person at your bar.

You are legally responsible for the customers in your bar. The best way to handle someone who is intoxicated is to stay calm and not encourage any sort of confrontation. Emotions are much higher when someone is intoxicated and often rash decisions are made, without thinking them through first. Try to speak to the person quietly, so as not to bring too much attention or embarrassment.

You can offer them water or coffee and talk about getting them a safe ride home. It is also your responsibility to ensure your guests have a safe way home. Having taxi numbers posted is not enough. You can kindly ask someone while they pay the check if they have a safe ride home or if they need you to call a cab for them. If they are being particularly aggressive, perhaps they have a sober friend who can help you convince the guest to get home safely.

The last resort would be to escort them out. If an impaired person gets in their vehicle, it is your responsibility to call 911.

Only time can sober up an impaired person. No amount of water, coffee, or food will sober someone up. That is why it is important you do not provide too much alcohol in a small amount of time.

Toronto Bar School

Toronto bartending school: preparing mixologists for a career in the field

The best way to learn more about the signs of intoxication, what is a standard drink, and other ways to keep your guests safe, is by taking your Smart Serve Course. They are mandatory for any professional establishment that serves alcohol. They are inexpensive and last up to five years.

Toronto Bar School offers a full bartending course that includes everything to make your career successful, including product knowledge, bar setup, glassware, and tools, methods and techniques, and of course, service. Good customer service is at the core of being an excellent bartender.

The skills and expertise you learn from Toronto Bar School will set you apart from the rest. You will also have the opportunity to work at lucrative events that are booked across the Greater Toronto Area. To learn more about the course and what they offer, head to Toronto Bar School today!