Responsible Hospitality Council

Who Are We?

The Lincoln/Lancaster County Responsible Hospitality Council (RHC) is composed of individuals from diverse perspectives committed to the responsible sale and service of alcohol. The RHC promotes the sale, use, consumption, and service of alcoholic beverages and provides a vehicle for discussing common concerns and identifying creative solutions for problems that occur with the irresponsible alcohol service in our community and county.

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All training classes are held  at the Bill Luxford Studio, 1st floor, 555 S. 10th Street.

Close-up of white wine bottles

Executive Council

Captain Joy Citta (retired) | Lincoln Police Department
Linda Major | University of Nebraska - Lincoln



About RHC

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Lincoln/Lancaster County Responsible Hospitality Council is to provide a vehicle for discussing common concerns and identifying creative solutions for problems that occur with the sale and/or service of alcohol within our community.

The Council is a community coalition of diverse perspectives interested in the responsible sale and/or service of alcohol.

The Lincoln/Lancaster County Responsible Hospitality Council will maintain a balance of diverse perspectives among its membership. Representation will be recruited from, but not limited to, the following groups: law enforcement, education, public health, public officials, citizen advocacy, alcohol retailers and wholesalers, hotel and motel management, civic organizations, substance abuse professionals, neighborhood associations, and insurance representatives.

As issues are identified and discussed, Council members will work to achieve group consensus. Confrontational discussions will remain respectful, recognizing that all perspectives represented are valid.


  1. To increase community awareness of responsible beverage service concepts and practices.
  2. To advise public decision-makers on policy issues related to the sale and/or service of alcohol.
  3. To identify and promote community norms and standards regarding the sale and/or service of alcohol.
  4. To identify and implement positive incentives for those licenses who practice responsible beverage service concepts.


The Community Covenant for Responsible Beverage Service was developed by the membership of the RHC. The document was finalized and released only when the collective council reached consensus on the responsible beverage service practices described in the covenant.

Community Covenant for Responsible Beverage Service

Hospitality is a valued and important aspect of the social and cultural activities of all people visiting or residing in Lincoln/Lancaster County. The hospitality industry, composed of hotels/motels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, social clubs, off premise establishments and recreation, amusement and convention facilities, is one of the county's largest private employers and a major contributor to the local economy.

Because of the nature of products and services provided as part of hospitality, both social and commercial hosts, share a responsibility in protecting the health, safety, and well being of guests. This is especially true regarding the sale and/or service of beverages containing alcohol.

Both the hospitality industry and society at large, through the legal sale and use of beverages containing alcohol, recognize the role of social drinking and recognize the value that appropriate use of these beverages has in hospitality settings.

We, as hosts, both commercial and social, recognize the importance of responsible hospitality practices and recognize the right of people to choose to drink or to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages. It is for this reason that we have adopted a sense of responsibility in how we serve our guests. By acknowledging the role of moderation, we recognize the distinction between the appropriate and inappropriate use of beverages containing alcohol.

As members of our community, we support the efforts of community human service agencies that provide a broad range of alcohol related services.

Therefore, we agree to adopt the following responsible hospitality practices, which promote a healthy and safe environment for the benefit of all:

  1. Encourage the creation of an atmosphere that promotes group social interaction and provide activities other than drinking.
  2. Ensure that servers are aware of responsible beverage service practices.
  3. Provide proper supervision and maintain control over the hospitality environment and encourage responsible drinking decisions by all guests.
  4. When possible, provide foods that slow the rate of intoxication wherever alcoholic beverages are sold or served.
  5. Provide low-alcohol and nonalcoholic beverages whenever alcoholic beverages are sold or served.
  6. Increase awareness of the risks involved with the consumption of beverages containing alcohol in association with activities and situations that might result in harm, injury, or death - such as when driving, when pregnant, when underage, and when operating machinery.
  7. Recognize the signs of, and discourage intoxication in all situations. Do not serve an intoxicated person.
  8. Comply with all social and legal obligations for the appropriate service and consumption of alcoholic beverages, including not permitting service to or consumption by, those under the age of 21.


Management Training

The RHC provides owners and managers with information needed to protect their business from legal, financial, and criminal liability, ensure customer safety, and maintain profitability. Cost is $75.00 per person.

Class Description

Hospitality Insighter

A Responsible Beverage Service Management Seminar

The Hospitality Insighter is designed for the manager/owner of a hospitality business. Any successful business plan starts at the top with the commitment of management to set the tone and establish an example for staff to follow. The management seminar will provide owners and managers of businesses serving alcohol with the information needed to protect business from legal liability, assure customer safety, and maintain profitability.

The following topics are covered in this one-day seminar:

  1. Trends in beverage consumption and sales.
  2. Alcoholic beverage control laws.
  3. Risk assessment programs to determine liability, profitability and service practices.
  4. Developing written policies and procedures on beverage service.
  5. Documentation for insurance companies, regulatory agencies and attorneys.
  6. Implementing server education programs.
  7. Strategies for improving quality of service.

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Server/Seller Training Permit

The City of Lincoln provides liquor servers and sellers with training into the skills and knowledge necessary to provide responsible service. Recommended liquor practices and specific training on City of Lincoln liquor laws are included.  Class Login

On-Site Consulting

A team of professionals from the Lincoln area will visit your establishment and provide you with a detailed review of your business practices relating to alcohol service. This visit will help you to take a critical look at your business and your serving practices.

Voluntary Compliance Checks

At your request, the RHC will perform undercover compliance checks at your establishment and provide a written summary for your use in training and rewarding employees. Cost varies.


Sample Policies

General Ideas

Promote Group Interaction

  1. Arrange seating to make forming small groups easier.
  2. Prevent overcrowding to allow people to be able to sit or stand together in small groups where they can converse and engage in comfortable social interaction.
  3. Maintain appropriate volume of music to allow for easy conversation
  4. When appropriate, encourage staff to introduce people to each other.
  5. Provide suggestions for social hosts on room settings.

Promote Food

  1. Whenever possible, make food available when alcohol beverages are served.
  2. In bar or lounge areas, provide appetizers or small serving selections that can be shared among  group members.
  3. Train servers and clerks to offer suggestions of food and beverages pairings, i.e. what wines and beers go better with what menu items.
  4. Create incentives for sales of appetizers and other food items served with beverages. Train servers and clerks to assist customers in selecting appropriate food and beverage pairings.

Don't Make Drinking the Focus

  1. Provide games, dancing, music, and other activities.
  2. Develop contests focusing on these alternatives.
  3. Train service staff to encourage customer participation in activities.
  4. Advertisements and promotions emphasize activities rather than drink specials.

Encourage Responsible Drinking

  1. Do no offer drink specials which encourage quick or quantity drinking, i.e. shooters, penny drinks, or "fishbowl" type drinks.
  2. Promote quality instead of quantity. Maintain a selection of premium products and train service staff about the various beverages, how they are made, and what distinguishes one brand or type from another.
  3. Create premium wine by the glass program.
  4. Create a premium beer program, i.e. beers from around the world, beer of the week club. Etc.
  5. Establish systems to monitor consumption by customers. Assign service staff to stations, develop a check system to keep track of time and quantity of drinks consumed, and establish drink limits for pacing or intervention with customers drinking too much too quickly.
  6. Use standard pours for drinks and train staff to understand why and how to maintain these serving sizes. Serve single drinks only. Do not stack drinks.
  7. Define specific behaviors for staff to identify for intervention and refusal of alcohol service.
  8. Conduct specific meetings to discuss problem situations, customers causing conflicts, or other issues involving intoxication.

Host Responsibility

  1. Require all service and management staff to be trained in responsible beverage service.
  2. Maintain adequate staffing to properly supervise customers.
  3. Train service staff in good service, developing communication and suggestive selling techniques.
  4. Have strict policies forbidding consumption of alcohol by employees before or during work hours.
  5. Define a chain of command for reporting and intervening with problem situations.
  6. Maintain good relations with law enforcement and invite law enforcement personnel to staff meetings.
  7. Establish an employee assistance program.

Drinking is Not a Rite of Passage

  1. Maintain strict controls on access to alcohol by underage people through training and incentives for proper age identification.
  2. Minimize or eliminate the use of advertising that equates drinking alcohol with increased success or status.
  3. Assure proper supervision of premise to protect from the transfer of alcohol from adults to underage people.
  4. Provide educational messages about responsible drinking, drink limits, and rules against abuse and intoxication.

Crowd Control

Controlling Overcrowding

One of the most frequent concerns expressed in interviews with the servers is the lack of control that results when there is overcrowding, especially during the late evening. In addition to increased risk of service to intoxicated guests because of the lack of ability to properly monitor guest drinking, there are many hidden costs associated with overcrowding. Bartenders and servers are more prone to make errors in ordering drinks, collecting money, making change. They are also less able to provide good service, and often receive smaller tips from disgruntled guests.

Destruction of property, broken glassware, and increased wear and tear on furniture increase as the crowd becomes larger. Guests will sit on tables, two people will share the same chair, and other practices associated with overcrowding will promote damage. Overcrowding can also contribute to increased risk of violence and assaults. Although it may be a rare occurrence, when it happens, the potential to escalate into a serious problem is always present.


The RBS Nightclub is committed to creating an environment that is safe, comfortable, and accessible to all people. In order to assure the greatest comfort level, we will monitor the number of guests allowed into our facilities and we will restrict access when the limit is reached. When it becomes necessary to deny access, we will encourage people to wait or return again.


  1. During times when there is an expected crowd, additional staff will be positioned at the entrance to monitor the number of people entering and leaving.
  2. Security staff is responsible for walking through all areas of our premise open to the public, including parking areas, sidewalks, hallways, and rest rooms. Security personnel will monitor activity in all areas on an hourly basis.
  3. All problems with lighting, access, indications of illegal drinking, or illegal drug use will be logged in the daily report and management will be promptly notified.

Serving Practices

Concerns about Serving Practices

The American public has been receiving information about drinking and driving for the past eight years. More and more people have begun to limit the number of drinks they consume. When an establishment does not carefully measure drinks, it could be putting a responsible driver into a situation they did not intend on getting into.

Measured pours help to control costs. Relying upon inventory checks to determine and consequently control drink pours is not generally accurate. Sometimes, before one recognized that bartenders are over-pouring, there could be a significant loss of inventory. In addition, relying solely on inventory to control pouring does not allow management to identify which bartender is not accurate or who might be cheating on pouring. There is nothing worse than having two people order the same item and one get a larger portion than the other.

Other responsible serving practices include not serving pitchers, setting a drink limit for guests, and eliminating last call, or announcing it with sufficient notice to prevent a person from gulping drinks before driving.


The RBS Nightclub understands that alcohol can affect different people in different ways, and that it is not always possible to determine when a person has reached the legal limit of consumption. However, the RBS Nightclub is committed to making every effort possible to prevent guests from becoming involved in an accident or arrest. Servers will monitor the number of standard drinks that each guest consumes, and will serve a guest according to their drink size. This policy will be reviewed at staff meetings and problem situations discussed.


  1. A standard drink size is one 12-ounce beer, 4-ounce glass of wine, or 1 1/4 ounce of 80 proof spirits drink. Two liquor drinks (i.e. Manhattan, Martini, Black Russian, Rusty Nail, etc.) will be considered two standard drinks. All drinks must be measured; free-pouring is not permitted.
  2. Drink limits concern only the average drinker with a normal tolerance to alcohol. A guest should not be served if he or she appears to be intoxicated, regardless of how many drinks have been consumed.
  3. The server will use assertive behavior, and the techniques of responsible beverage service in all dealings with guests who are drinking too quickly or too much. The object is not to make them leave our establishment but rather to get them to drink in a manner which will help them and those around them to more thoroughly enjoy our hospitality.

Drinking on the Job

Concerns about Employees Drinking During Work

Regardless of how experienced a drinker a person may be, consuming alcoholic beverages while working impairs their ability to perform their duties. Drinking on the job causes other employees to assume some of the responsibilities of the impaired employee-without receiving any compensation for the extra work, creating negative staff morale.

When an employee is permitted to drink on the job, they may use alcohol to escape boredom during slow periods, and then be overwhelmed by and unexpected crowd. When employees drink on the job, they become incapable of making quick, responsible decisions. It affects their ability to respond to a crisis, and they can become less efficient, make more mistakes, and lose money for the business.
It is also more difficult for a server to tell a guest they are shut off when the server has been drinking along with the guest. It makes the server's responsible efforts less effective.


The RBS Nightclub recognizes that the consumption of alcohol beverages hampers a person's good judgement. The consumption of alcoholic beverages by staff or management while on duty is forbidden, and violation of this policy will be strictly enforced, including job suspension or termination of employment. This policy will be reviewed at staff meetings and problem situations discussed.


  1. Drinking on the job impairs a person's ability to perform his or her duties. It affects their ability to respond to a crisis situation. It decreases the ability to foresee the development of a problem situation. It causes the server to miss important cues related to both age and intoxication. In short, drinking on the job increases the server's own criminal liability, the establishments licensing liability, and the establishment's civil liability.
  2. Drinking on the job causes sober employees to have to assume some of the responsibilities of the impaired employee without receiving any compensation for the work.
  3. Guests who are drinking quickly or heavily are less likely to accept the responsible suggestions or demands of a server who is drinking. In other words, drinking on the job makes the employee's responsible service efforts far less effective.
  4. Minors are more likely to attempt to be served by a server who is drinking than one who is sober and, therefore, more serious.
  5. We know that many of our employees drive after work and often are tired and have not eaten for several hours. We, therefore, will not allow employees to consume alcoholic beverages after their shift or at closing.
  6. The bottom line: regardless of the law in the particular state, no server, manager, or other employee will have alcohol in their systems while on the clock.

Problem Guest


The RBS Nightclub recognized that alcohol abuse and alcoholism are serious social problems and that some individuals lose control of their drinking. Servers are not expected to be counselors nor should they attempt to diagnose a person's drinking behavior. However, guests with habitual drinking problems (i.e. regularly becoming intoxicated) must not be encouraged to drink for his/her own and other's safety. The manager should be notified and appropriate strategies implemented. In our establishment, this policy will be reviewed at staff meetings and problem situations discussed.


  1. When a server becomes aware of an individual who repeated abused alcohol and is disruptive or poses a threat to his/her own or other's safety, the manager should be notified and appropriate strategies implemented.
  2. Once a problematic drinker has been identified and an individualized action policy established, it must not be deviated from.
  3. There are patrons who have previously become intoxicated and have been forbidden by the management to imbibe alcoholic beverages while on the premises. Nevertheless, some of these people may also be regular diners and may have contracted with the management to visit our establishment only for meals and the social atmosphere. In these special cases, the managers and servers must communicate closely with one another and the server must monitor the guest very carefully.
  4. In the event that a former guest has been permanently barred from the establishment, the server must not serve that individual. In the event that the individual enters the establishment, the manager must be informed immediately, and the situation will be handled by the manager as per our policy on this matter.

Serving to Intoxication


The RBS Nightclub is committed to the prevention of intoxication rather than intervention after the guest becomes intoxicated. When a guest is approaching the level of intoxication, servers will take the necessary steps to pace drinking, offer food or delay service as described in our Hospitality Insighter Seminar. The server will monitor the number of drinks and the behavior of the guest and make every effort to prevent the person from over consuming. Management who observes a violation of this policy will take disciplinary action against the employee, including job suspension or termination of employment. This policy will be reviewed at staff meetings and problem situations discussed.


  1. Servers will encourage responsible drinking by guests by offering food, providing alternative low and alcohol free beverages, and by ensuring alternative transportation for those who have had too much to drink.
  2. Servers will recognize all of the signs of intoxication-subtle and obvious-as taught in out Hospitality Seminar.
  3. In the RBS Nightclub, alcoholic beverages will be served responsibly and drinking by guests will be paced. Servers will not wait to take action until the guest is showing the obvious signs of intoxication. Servers will take the appropriate action at an early enough point in the guest's experience to permit the successful handling of all situations.
  4. Problematic situations that occur outside of one's own station will be reported to the employee working in that station.
  5. Employees will seek the help of other employees when taking action which could conceivable involve a problem with a guest-particularly with an intoxicated guest. Once a guest is "cut off", servers and managers will notify all other servers of this action to avoid the guest finding an additional source of drinks.
  6. In a situation where a server feels that there is potential for conflict with an intoxicated patron, the intervention will automatically be turned over to the manager on duty and security notified.
  7. When a problem develops unexpectedly, the server, or another server who is monitoring the situation, will quickly and discretely inform the manager. Record all alcohol-related interventions, positive and negative in the incident log.
  8. During shift changes, departing servers or those who have already been serving guests will indicate level of consumption of guests and discuss possible problem situations to servers just coming on shift.
  9. If an intervention with an intoxicated person is necessary, the server shall consult with the manager and the proper procedures shall be implemented. All servers will be guaranteed a fifteen- percent gratuity on any check where an intervention is made with an intoxicated guest when that guest denies the server a tip.

Intoxicated Entering

The Intoxicated Guest

Serving intoxicated guests invokes a number of liabilities against the server and against the establishment. Determining when a guest is intoxicated is a very subjective process. One person may exhibit behaviors associated with being outgoing, comical, and assertive when another person exhibiting the same behaviors may be intoxicated. All staff needs to be familiar with the obvious signs of intoxication and know the appropriate steps to take to protect the guest's safety and prevent liability against the establishment.

There are three specific situations involving service to intoxicated guests:

  1. The intoxicated guest is entering the establishment.
  2. The guest is becoming intoxicated.
  3. The guest who regularly becomes intoxicated or the problem drinking guest.

Handling each situation requires special skills and a commitment to the establishment's policies. The key to successful intervention is prevention. Keeping the focus on the guest's safety and the establishment's policies diverts personal confrontations.


The primary goal of the RBS Nightclub's responsible beverage service program is to protect the health and safety of all guests. When a guest enters the premises and appears to be intoxicated, the person will not be served alcoholic beverages. Arrangements should be made to ensure the safety of the guest, and management and security should be contacted. This policy will be reviewed at staff meetings and problem situations discussed.


  1. Servers should notify the manager of hostess when a guest enters the facilities in an intoxicated condition. The manager will take appropriate action to protect the guest and prevent a disturbance from occurring.
  2. If the intoxicated guest is permitted to remain on the premises, he or she should be offered food, alternative beverages, and arrangements made for a safe ride home in accordance with the guidelines under RBS Nightclub Alternative Transportation.

Age Identification

Legal Age Verification

In most states, the greatest liability risk to a licensed business is the service of alcoholic beverages to people under the age of 21. Policies to reduce this risk require constant training, supervision, and strong sanctions against anyone violating policies in this area.


The RBS Nightclub recognizes the importance of not serving alcoholic beverages to any person under the legal purchase age of 21. All employees will under no circumstance serve and person appearing to be under the age of 25 who does not have acceptable identification, even when with a parent or guardian. When a person is refused service due to insufficient identification, information about the event should be recorded in the incident log. Management who observes a violation of this policy will take disciplinary action against the employee including job suspension or termination.


  1. Minors will not be served alcoholic beverages by any member of our staff or by any other guest. All guests who appear to be under the age of 25 will have their identification checked if they order alcoholic beverages. If they present identification that is not valid, they will be refused service and asked to leave.
  2. Acceptable forms of identification are strictly limited to:
    • Valid drivers license
    • Valid passports
    • Valid U.S. military identification
    • Nebraska ID card
  3. Identification will be carefully checked to ensure against alteration, forgery, and counterfeit. This requires a thorough knowledge of the identification cards of the particular state in which the establishment is located near the establishment. When there is any doubt, use an identification-checking guide for other states. When checking identification, it should be removed from the wallet of case.
  4. Parents and spouses, are prohibited from furnishing alcohol to minors, children, or spouses.
  5. If a person, who appears to be a minor has an alcoholic drink, the server should ask for identification. If the person is underage, the drink should be removed from the guest after saying, "I will have to take this drink from you," and he/she should be informed that it is illegal for them to consume alcoholic beverages on the premises. If the guest is with their parents, they should be informed that state law forbids the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors, and the drink should be removed. Other servers should be notified, and the manager should be informed. Information should be recorded in the incident log.
  6. If alcohol-serving facilities where minors are permitted, they will politely be told that only guests over the age of 21 may consume alcoholic beverages. Serve only one drink at a time to companions of the underage person, and notify other servers that the person is underage.

Alternative Beverages

Alternative Beverage Promotion Strategies

With 44 percent of American population reporting they do not drink alcoholic beverages, up from 29 percent in the late 1970's, a responsible hospitality establishment should not only make alternative alcohol-free beverages available, but service staff should be trained in the promotion of these products including non-alcoholic, low-alcoholic, and premium beverages.


The RBS Nightclub respects the rights of all guests, whether they drink alcoholic beverages or not. All advertising, menus, promotions, and specials will include regular, low, and alcohol free beverages. Servers will actively promote all beverages and will be evaluated on total beverage sales. This policy will be discussed and reviewed at staff meetings.


  1. Tap water, soft drinks, and black coffee are only a few of our available alternative beverages. All RBS Nightclub servers will become familiar with our extensive menu of alternate beverages, including bottled mineral waters, flavored waters, seltzers, juices, low-alcohol, and alcohol-free mixed specialty drinks, and non-alcoholic beers and wines.
  2. When greeting guests, the initial reference made to beverages will include non-alcoholic beverages. Rather than say, "Good evening. May I bring you a cocktail?" Say, "Good evening. May I get you one of our beverages?"
  3. RBS Nightclub servers will actively promote alcohol-free beverages, not only as substitutes for alcoholic beverages but as drinks in their own right (i.e. a guest who orders a glass of water can be encouraged to try one of our specialty drinks without alcohol or flavored mineral water.)
  4. RBS Nightclub servers will become familiar with the names and recipes of all "exotic" alcohol-free beverages on our menu, and will taste test alcohol-free beers and wines.
  5. When customers ask for the list of beers, our service staff will include a full list of non-alcoholic beer and low alcohol wines in that list.
  6. When customers ask for the list of "house" wines, service staff will not neglect to include the alcohol-free and low alcohol wines on that list.
  7. As the guest's drinking experience continues into a second and third hour, the server will more assertively suggest alternative beverages, such as low-alcohol coffee drinks.
  8. Although the use of alternative beverages is not solely for replacing alcohol in potentially problematic situations, it is certainly one reason for suggesting them. All servers must become familiar with the techniques of responsible beverage service as they relate to pacing drinking and refusing continued service of alcohol to customers who are drinking too quickly or too much.

Corporate Guide

Employer Responsibilities

Companies interested in creating responsible hospitality policies need to focus on three areas of risk exposure:

Hosted Events

When a company decides to organize a hospitality event where alcoholic beverages will be served, it is important to create an environment that is safe and comfortable for all guests.

This year's picnic was like all others. An annual occasion to bring employees and their families together, provide positive recognition to those for doing exceptional work for the company, and to create camaraderie among managers and staff. The planing committee did a great job organizing the event, which raffle prizes, recognition's awards, and plenty of food and drinks.

Although it was not required, department heads emphasized they wanted their staff to be well represented in the softball tournament. Everyone felt obligated to attend though many just stayed for a short while. Charlie, a member of the planning committee and first baseman for the team, was one of those who felt obligated to empty the beer keg. While driving home, he crossed the median and crashed head-on to a mini-van with a family returning from the amusement park. Charlie broke his back and lost the use of his legs.

The driver of the other car was killed and a child in the back seat lost her eyesight. Charlie filed a workers compensation claim and is suing the company. The survivors of the other car are also suing the company.

Employee Host Responsibility

Companies can provide host responsibility messages and information to their employees.

It was the busiest time of the year. Orders were backing up and delivery drivers were putting in overtime just to keep up. The driver team was experienced, working together for a number of years and knew the routes very well. Ted had a party to bring the team together and relieve some of the stress. Mary, one of the company's best drivers, attended Ted's party. She called in Monday morning reporting she was in a car accident and was arrested for DUI. She lost her license and could not drive until her court appearance scheduled in three weeks.

Community Involvement

Businesses can become actively involved in community programs and projects seeking to reduce alcohol abuse. Patronizing hospitality businesses with strict policies and practices on beverage service can promote market force changes for safer communities and healthier businesses.

An audit of the shipping department records showed more than $300,000 in payments was authorized to non-existent companies. An investigation showed the department head, Joe, has a long-standing drinking problem. His staff covered for him and his mistakes. They also set-up the bogus accounts, and when Joe came back from extended drinking lunches, employees got him to sign the false authorizations.

Kathy the chair of the safety committee from the human resources department was surprised to see the increasing number of accident claims from the productions department. They were the most active in the safety program, and for the past three years always had the best safety records. After an investigation, Kathy discovered four months ago, a new bar opened across from the plant, and special drink promotions brought in many of the workers during lunch breaks.

A Shot of Prevention

Liability is simply the cost of failing to take appropriate preventative action. Those licensed to sell and serve alcoholic beverages such as bars and restaurants have a greater duty under the law. However, employer and social hosts, while not exposed to the same degree of liability, are increasingly expected to play a more active role in prevention.

Generally, host liability falls in to two categories: criminal and civil. Criminal liability is when a host violates a law or regulation, and is arrested for the violation. Penalties usually involve fines and/or a jail sentence. While some criminal statues exist which a company needs to be concerned about, the greatest exposure is from civil liability.

A jury in Florida assessed $800,000 in punitive damages against a company employing a salesman who got drunk while entertaining clients and later killed two people in an auto crash. This verdict appears to be the first that extends corporate liability to drinking connected with an employee's off-premises entertainment of a client.

Civil liability is a fairly simple concept. A person injured or killed due in whole, or in part, to the negligence of another person or company, and the injured party seeks compensation. This compensation can be for damages, such as; medical expenses, repair of damaged property, loss of income, or loss of companionship. This is referred to as "compensatory damages."

The legal theory and precedent of civil liability for the negligent sales or service of alcohol beverages dates back more than a century. Libelous negligent action usually involves one of the following three circumstances:

  1. Sales or service of alcohol beverages to an underage person.
  2. Sales or service of alcohol beverages to an intoxicated person.
  3. Mishandling of an intoxicated person

The scope and extent of liability varies considerably from state to state and cannot be adequately covered in this guide. Nebraska is one of the lowest ranked states limiting liability through case law precedent. The state courts have consistently refused to allow liability for service of alcohol in the absence of legislation establishing state policy.

While civil liability against a company may be a rare occurrence, when it does happen, it can be quite disruptive to the business. In addition to the economic costs of attorneys and potential liability claims, there are emotional costs to management and staff required to remember an incident which may have occurred two or three years earlier. If in fact a person was killed or injured due to the negligence of the employees, this knowledge can be devastating to everyone involved. 

Lasting Relationships

Hospitality is creating environments to bring people together, celebrate, conduct business, and/or eat, drink, and socialize. Responsible hospitality is all a host can do to reduce risk and increase enjoyment of guests at a celebration, event or social gathering.

People throughout the world consume alcoholic beverages. Among cultures with low rates of alcohol abuse, there are certain norms that can be translated into positive host practices. Following are suggested areas to consider when developing alcohol policy in the corporate setting:

Host Responsibility

There is control of all event activities. Event planners take full responsibility for what happens, and remain sober to avoid impairment of judgment or ability to intervene properly.

Mixed Group

Drinking beverage alcohol is done with others, not by oneself. Through a variety of policies and programs, group interaction and the formation of social groups can be facilitated. Creating a safe environment open to men and women creates social controls on high-risk behavior. Control crowd size and music volume. Arrange tables and seating to encourage group interaction.


Food is served and consumed with the alcoholic beverages. Food is available throughout the event, easily accessible, and actively promoted by the host.

Alternative Beverages

Concern about health, risk of arrest for driving while intoxicated, and interest in other activities means that even those who used to drink more are cutting back on alcohol consumption. Plenty of adult alternatives should be made available and promoted equally with regular alcoholic beverages.

Alternative Activities

The occasion emphasizes activities other than drinking, such as a meal, entertainment, socializing, and celebration. A responsible host plans these activities and keeps the focus off of drinking as the primary activity.

Intoxication Discouraged

There was a time many actors made their living impersonating a drunk. Today, such behavior is intolerable, and intoxication is unacceptable at social events.

Not a Rite of Passage

Drinking alcohol is not a sign of adulthood, manliness, or status. Laws preventing young people from obtaining alcohol prevent premature injury or death.

Corporate Events

In addition to incorporating these norms into corporate policies and procedures, there are other important decisions and strategies to consider in an effort to reduce liability and enhance the enjoyment of the event, including:


When organizing events, the first consideration is to decide the purpose of the event. If it is for employees, is it a reward for hard work? To build team spirit? To celebrate? If it is for customers or clients, is it to show appreciation? Build new happiness? Defining the purpose of the event can establish a foundation for making other decisions.


Is it necessary to serve alcoholic beverages? Many companies are choosing to organize office parties, picnics, and other events without serving alcoholic beverages. This decision needs to be weighed against perceptions held by those attending. Many enjoy having a glass of beer, wine, or mixed drink at social occasions to make them feel more comfortable and less inhibited. Will you sacrifice the benefits by eliminating the availability of alcoholic beverages? Can the purpose of the event be achieved?


Rather than hosting the event on company property, utilize a licensed business or professional caterer. Although the short-term cost may be greater, service could improve and liability could be reduced. When choosing the venue, make sure the business maintains strict policies on responsible beverage service, trains service staff, and works with you on assuring guest safety.


In the past, open bars throughout events were common. Today, many hosts limit hours of beverage service, provide drink coupons to limit the number or drinks served to each individual, or have cash bars, requiring the guest to pay for their own alcoholic beverages.


All aspects of the event need to be planned in advance and those attending need to be made aware of policies and controls to enhance the event and promote safety. Invitations should clearly define the purpose of the event, and if alcoholic beverage are to be served, arrangements should be made to control access to underage people and prevent intoxication. For instance, if young people are expected, establish procedures for checking identification, use wristbands, and notify those attending that identification will be checked.

Party Planning Information

A way to reinforce the company's commitment to responsible hospitality is to provide party planning information to employees, especially during holidays and summer. Reinforce responsible drinking and driving messages in paychecks, on bulletin boards and signage.

Employee Assistance Program

The costs of employee development make replacement of staff much more costly than in the past. Decline in worker performance can often be linked to alcohol abuse problems. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP's) have been shown to be cost effective in addressing declining performance without termination of employees. Every dollar invested in an EAP returns four in savings and increased productivity.

Event Planner Checklist

The checklist is not intended to address the many details of planning a successful event. Please use the following to prompt your attention
to key areas of concern and lay a foundation for reducing liability if you decide to make alcoholic beverages available at your event.

  • Consult an experienced event planner about details. Decide if you should use a licensed establishment, your own facility, or a public setting.
  • For larger crowds, consult a professional security service to provide expert security.
  • Obtain necessary permits to serve food and alcoholic beverages.
  • Provide for adequate staffing to properly serve and supervise the event, including professional or experienced bartenders and food servers.
  • Announced availability of food, alternative beverages, and social activities in the invitation. Make the event appealing to all groups.
  • Specify, in the invitation, hours of beverage service and hours of entertainment.
  • When appropriate, mention on the invitation the requirement that all person under the age of 30 show an identification to obtain alcohol and that a person who appears intoxicated will not be served.
  • Make arrangements to have designated drivers or alternative transportation available.
  • Arrange for any event location that is adequate to accommodate the expected number of guests.
  • Ask a planning committee or hosting group to provide introductions and promote social interaction.
  • Arrange for a comfortable setting to encourage small group formation and socializing.
  • Plan alternative activities and entertainment. When youth are attending make appropriate activities available for them and closely monitor access to alcohol.
  • Use distinguishing glassware when serving non-alcoholic beverages to underage people to prevent transfer of drinks.
  • Arrange for food to be available and easily accessible throughout the event.
  • Allow only designated servers to pour alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not allow guests to bring their own alcoholic beverages.
  • Post signs announcing policies on age identification, intoxication, and alternative transportation.
  • Serve drinks in standard measures; 1.5-ounce spirits, 12 ounces beer, and 5 ounces wine.
  • Actively promote food and alternative beverages.
  • Offer coffee, tea, and desserts toward the end of the event.
  • Stop alcoholic beverage service at least one hour before the end of the event.
  • Identify potentially intoxicated guests and offer alternative transportation.
  • Document any interventions made.
  • Meet after the event to identify problems and make recommendations to improve the next event.

Responsible Beverage Service

On-Sale and Off-Sale

For On-Sale Establishments

  • Develop written policies describing accepted beverage service procedures particularly regarding age identification and prohibition alcoholic beverage service to intoxicated persons. Policy statements should be signed by each employee and kept on file.
  • Require that patrons present valid identification upon request, confirming that the I.D.'s are that of the presenters.
  • Promote recognition of a standard drink size and drink equivalency through serving policies and practices (i.e. 12 oz. domestic beer = 4 oz. table wine = 1.25 oz. 80 proof distilled spirits.)
  • When possible, provide foods that slow the rate of intoxication and encourage their consumption.
  • Promote non-alcohol and low alcohol beverage alternatives wherever alcoholic beverages are sold or served.
  • Avoid promotions that encourage over-consumption of alcohol as a focus of activity.
  • Promote alternative transportation programs.
  • Make available information or referral assistance to employees whose work performance may be impaired by an alcohol or drug problem.
  • Indicate support for the community covenant to other servers of alcoholic beverages in Lincoln-Lancaster County.

For Off-Sale Establishments

  • Ensure that all employees participate in a responsible beverage service-training program appropriate to their position and setting.
  • Develop written policy describing accepted beverage service procedures particularly regarding age identification and prohibition alcoholic beverage service to intoxicated persons. Policy statements should be signed by each employee and kept on file.
  • Require that patrons present valid identification upon request, confirming that the I.D.'s are that of the presenters.
  • Provide information on the responsible service of alcoholic beverages to the social host/ customers (i.e. designated server, standard drink size, and food service.)
  • Ensure that employees are familiar with alternative sources of transportation for patrons who may be intoxicated. When possible, promote alternative transportation for alcohol-impaired customers.
  • Provide an adequate ratio of staff to customers in order to monitor beverage sales and customer behavior.
  • Make available information or referral assistance to employees whose work performance may be impaired by and alcohol or drug problem.
  • Indicate support for the community covenant by posting it in a viable location.
  • Promote the community covenant to other servers of alcoholic beverages in Lincoln-Lancaster County.

Planning a Party

Before the Party

Good planning is essential whether you're hosting a large party or just having a few friends over. The host who plans thoughtfully will likely have a more enjoyable and memorable celebration.

Plan to offer alternatives to alcoholic beverages

Plan to make available an attractive selection of alternative beverages. These include both low-alcohol and alcohol-free choices. Since so many people are choosing not to drink beverages containing alcohol (more than 40 percent according to Gallup polls), the choice of alternatives will be greatly appreciated. Guests, who wish to later switch to an alternative, after beginning with an alcoholic beverage, will also be grateful.

There are a wide array of alcohol-free and low-alcohol beers and wines on the market. In addition, fruit juices and flavored mineral waters generally go over well at parties. "Mocktails," otherwise known as alcohol-free blender drinks, are refreshing drink specialties that you can serve to add pizzazz to your celebration. Also festive is an alcohol-free punch, be sure you clearly label the punch bowls.

Plan to serve food

Have food readily available when your guests arrive. Set the food table with a generous and attractive selection of high-protein, non-salty selections. High-protein foods are good because they slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Avoid salty snacks, which tend to promote thirst and may cause guests to drink more alcohol. Also provide snacks to nibble on and place them throughout the party area. Offer trays of food to seated guests.

Offer foods that are not awkward or messy for guests to handle. Finger foods such as sandwiches, deviled eggs, shrimp, nachos, stuffed mushroom caps, petite quiches, and fresh raw vegetables with dips are easy for guests to pick up - and easy for you to prepare.

Plan the party setting

Set up the party room to promote interaction among guests. Arrange tables and chairs in a manner that encourages group conversation; doing so will help to create a fun and comfortable environment.

Plan activities

Plan other activities so that drinking is not the central theme of your party. Place games such as Pictionary, Scattegories, Backgammon, Scrabble, or Trivia Pursuit around the room to encourage socializing. Play some upbeat music and encourage dancing. If you do include dancing, clearly identify a dance area and be sure it is large enough. If your guests are active and interact with other guests, everyone will have a better time and will be less likely to drink too much.

During the Party

Have one designated person serve drinks so that someone is aware of how much alcohol each person is consuming. All guests should be made aware that a particular person will serve them, and this person should be advised not to drink alcohol.

The bartender should not serve doubles or allow guests to have strong drinks. A standard drink measure is 1 1/4 ounces of distilled spirits, a 12 ounce beer, or a 4 ounce glass of wine. Also the bartender should not automatically refresh glasses and should mix lighter drinks for those who are drinking faster.

During the party, observe your guests. Watch for those who are drinking rapidly and those exhibit signs of impending intoxication. Slurred speech, raised voice, and red or glassy eyes are some indications your guest may be impaired. If a guest is drinking too much, do not become confrontational. Offer food and alcohol-free beverages and delay him/her from leaving the party.

Near the Party's End

Offer coffee, tea, and desserts during the last hour of the party. These items will not make an intoxicated guest sober, but it may encourage him or her to stay longer. Time is the only factor that helps reduce the impairing effect of alcohol.

If a guest has had too much to drink, do not let him/her drive. Honest expressions of care, respect, and concern are often all that is needed. Have a friend drive the guest home, call a taxi, or ask the guest to stay overnight. As a last resort, take the car keys or let the air out of the tires. Call the police if neither of these actions are successful. These might appear drastic measures, but they could very well prevent and injury or save a life.

Myths & Misconceptions

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

No one ever asks for non-alcoholic products

More and more people are asking for these products when they know these products are available. However, they usually don't ask, because the products are not promoted. Evidence clearly shows that people are drinking less alcohol, which means they're seeking replacement drinks. According to data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES), a nationwide study of household spending, based on more than 35,000 spending records from some 25,000 U.S. households, the average American household spent 7.7 percent of its food and beverage budget on alcoholic beverages in 1984. That figure dropped to 6.4 percent in 1989 - a decline of 17 percent. Spending on alcohol dropped much faster than average in the following demographic segments:

  • Households headed by people aged 45-64
  • Households with incomes of $50,000 or more
  • Married couples living with older children, extended family or unrelated people

A December 1990 Roper Organization report showed that 29 percent of those surveyed reported they want to avoid alcoholic beverages completely. These people, combined with those who want to consume only a small amount, represented 60 percent of the sample. The public is clearly stating that it wants to drink less, and all indications are that this trend will continue. People will increasingly request alternatives if they are made available.

People don't like non-alcoholic products, because they don't taste like the real thing

Different products - alcoholic and non-alcoholic - have different tastes, each with an appeal to certain individuals. People do not necessarily drink a non-alcoholic wine, for example, in an attempt to replicate the taste of a particular wine containing alcohol. As people develop a taste for non-alcoholic products, (similar to the development of a taste for alcohol), their demand for these products increases. The unique taste of beer is a good example. When light beer was first introduced in the 1970's many regular beer drinkers rejected it. Today, light beer sales represent over 40 percent of all beer sales.

If people don't want to drink, they're happy with cola or mineral water

People who don't drink alcohol want beverage choices, just as the alcohol drinker does. They want a number of choices, and they want exciting alternatives - not just the standard fare of sodas and water. And most consumers are willing to pay comparable prices for sophisticated and quality non-alcoholic drinks as for those with alcohol.

My customers come to drink. They won't order a non-alcoholic beverage

Certainly, there are customers who come in exclusively to drink alcoholic beverages. But why aren't they bringing their friends who don't drink alcohol with them? Because the establishment has nothing to offer them. If non-alcoholic beverages were offered and promoted, nondrinkers would accompany their drinking friends, they would order the non-alcoholic products, and the establishment would increase profits.

Pricing and Profit

Non-alcoholic beverages are too expensive

Prices of non-alcoholic beverages vary, as do prices for those with alcohol. Much depends on the brand. At the heart of the argument is the mistaken belief that non-alcoholic products should always cost less because they are lacking the key ingredient, the alcohol. But to a person wanting a beverage without alcohol, the alcohol has no value; thus the drink without alcohol is just as valuable and worth the same price as an alcoholic drink.

In many cases a non-alcoholic product should cost more, because its production process is more complex - it includes the extra step of removing the alcohol. People understand this with other products, such as decaffeinated coffee, sugar-free sodas, and unleaded gas. The public accepts that these products often cost more, and, if informed, the public will accept higher costs for non-alcoholic beverages, too. In fact, establishments can rightfully position these products as quality alternatives, with added value.

People who drink non-alcoholic products don't tip

Nobody who receives poor service should tip, and, unfortunately, people who order non-alcoholic beverages frequently are treated by servers as second-class citizens. When nondrinkers receive good service, they tip well, just as drinkers do. However, the bill for a patron abstaining from alcohol may be lower, because establishments frequently do not offer alternative beverages with much purchase appeal or do not price them properly - or even charge for them. If the bill is lower, so is the tip.

We can't make as much money on non-alcoholic products as we can on alcoholic products

Once again, this is a pricing problem. An establishment needs to examine its costs and pricing strategies in light of the new trend away from alcohol, and then invest effort in promoting non-alcoholic products so they may be a profit center for the operation. Promoting non-alcoholic products does much more than increase existing profit potential. If the present trend continue, and more and more people reduce or discontinue their alcohol intake, the customer base at establishments not offering alternative beverages will decline. In addition, because of the veto vote, non-drinkers will be taking their drinking friends (and their business), away from the old familiar places and to those establishments offering an alcoholic and non-alcoholic menu mix with something for everyone.


I don't have room to store non-alcoholic products

In light of new drinking trends, establishments also need to examine their inventories. How many wines are on the wine list? How many turnover inventory every month? How many beers and scotches are stocked? What's the turnover for each of these products? Are there items on the drink list or menu that are simply favorites of the owner or of some of the regulars? Is there enough room for items that would appeal to an already sizable - and growing - customer base of nondrinkers?

The demand for alternative beverages is increasing every day. Establishments need to make room in inventory for this new source of profit.

Non-alcoholic products go bad

Any product goes bad if it isn't sold, and a product - especially a new and innovative one - isn't sold if it isn't advertised. Unfortunately, non-alcoholic beverages frequently fall into this category. They lack the necessary promotion by the establishment; as a result, their high profit potential doesn't get a chance. Customers don't ask for a non-alcoholic beverage because they don't know it's available. The same promotional techniques that work for alcoholic beverages work for those without alcohol. Establishments need to run specials on alternative beverages and perhaps host tastings. With this support, sales of alternative beverages can soar.

I carry one non-alcoholic beer and that's enough

Establishments need to re-examine the concept of what's "enough." Are several domestic as well as imported gins available? How many vodkas are offered? How large is the selection of wines? Nondrinkers like to try different non-alcoholic products, just as people who like alcohol often vary their drinks. But when given no choice, many people won't order anything.


I don't like the way non-alcoholic beverages taste

Individual tastes differ, and - assuming profit is the objective - the tastes of the customers rather than that of the owner are what's key to the establishment's success. Offering a large selection of non-alcoholic beverages is a sure means of satisfying the varied tastes of a large segment of the customer base.

My staff doesn't like selling non-alcoholic products

Employees counting on tips don't like selling anything that's not a moneymaker, and they often mistakenly banish non-alcoholic beverages into this category. Servers need to be sold by management on the profit potential of alternative products. They need to taste these new products; to learn how best is to sell them, and to have their sales efforts supported by effective promotions.

It's difficult to merchandise the item

Non-alcoholic products are sold through the same merchandising mechanisms in which alcohol is marketed:

  1. Choose quality products
  2. Offer a good variety of products
  3. Train staff to know about the products
  4. Let the customer know what products are available.
  5. Use price promotions to help sell the products.

Non-alcoholic beer and wine contain alcohol and should not be consumed by pregnant women, recovering alcoholics, and young people

In reality, there is more alcohol in a glass of orange juice or English muffin than in a glass of non-alcoholic beer or wine. By law, the beverage manufacturers must post a label that the products contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol. Many times, the alcohol content can be less than this. An average size man would need to consume at least forty non-alcoholic beers or glasses of wine in an hour to reach the legal limit for driving in most states.

Except in a few states there are no legal restrictions on the sale or service of non-alcoholic beverages to underage people. Some businesses have policies that restrict service because of control or public perception reasons, while many others experience no difficulty in serving these drinks to young people as they would non-alcoholic fruit juice blender drinks. Although there is evidence that drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy may cause birth defects, a woman would have to consume eight glasses of non-alcoholic wine or beer to get the equivalent of one standard alcoholic beverage. Finally people in recovery for alcoholism face many challenges to stay sober. Although for some, the association of the taste of the non-alcoholic beer or wine may precipitate a return to drinking alcoholic beverages, many others are able to enjoy these products with no difficulty. It is not the alcohol content that creates the risk. Each person must make their own decision, and servers, as always, need to respect and honor the decision of their guest.