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FAQs about Dram Shop laws: Who they protect and how

Bar and restaurant owners have all probably had to deal with a customer insistent on drinking much more than they should. This scenario plays itself out in bars or liquor-licensed restaurants all the time, but where do legal responsibilities lie in these situations?

In the interest of stressing the social responsibilities that our bar and restaurant owners owe to their communities and their patrons, we've compiled a list of some of the most common questions and answers regarding Arizona's liquor laws and how they apply to these establishments. 

What are "Dram Shop" laws?

You may have heard this term without proper explanation, but Dram Shop laws specifically govern lawsuits involving injuries that were caused by patrons who purchased alcohol at a bar, tavern, restaurant or other establishment licensed by the state to serve liquor. While these laws do differ from state to state, every state does have them. 

What is the legal amount of drinks that can be served to one patron at a time?

While in the past, this limit was restricted by the number of drinks served to a single patron at once, it has since been restructured to reflect the amount of alcohol in the drinks instead.  

These are the current legal limits that can be served to one person at a time:

●      40 ounces of beer

●      1 liter of wine

●      4 ounces of distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink)

It's also worth noting that these limits are singular - meaning, a patron can order one of these options at a time - not all three in combination.

Can a bar offer unlimited drinks within a specified amount of time for a fixed price - as part of a promotion, happy hour deal, or drinking contest? 

No. This is never legal. The limits mentioned in the previous question are in place partially to help prevent this kind of dangerous over-serving.

Can bartenders or other employees of a bar or restaurant be held liable for serving or continuing to serve a patron who is intoxicated?

Yes, they can. In fact, if that intoxicated patron leaves the establishment and causes an accident, that employee can be cited for serving them if the accident results in a lawsuit - even if the owner of the establishment instructed them to go ahead and serve to the patron in question. It is very important that bar and restaurant owners inform their employees of these laws, which empowers them to protect themselves and their customers when situations like this arise.

Can a bartender or a server purchase a drink for a customer?

No - a bar or restaurant owner should never allow this in their establishment for many reasons. 

When a customer is clearly intoxicated, how long can they remain at the bar?

When an owner, bartender or server becomes aware that a patron is intoxicated, that patron should be notified that they will have thirty minutes to leave the premises. This allowance of time is meant to give an intoxicated individual the opportunity to secure a safe and sober ride home.

IWe hope that this list has been a reinforcement of the truly positive intentions of Dram Shop laws in our state, which are meant to help protect not only patrons to our bars and restaurants, but also the rights of the owners and servers as well.

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