6 Ways to Lose Your Liquor License

January 13, 2017 Andrea Victory


It’s Friday night and the bar is bustling. The chatter is loud, the music is pumping, and the taps are flowing. You know the vibe in your venue is just right for unwinding after work, but really, you know the truth is that everyone is there for the drinks. And those drinks are under a lot of regulation. Different cities and states have different rules, but there are overarching similarities that govern the sale of alcohol and they all add up to the hard-to-get liquor license.


But getting a liquor license isn’t the end of the game. Abiding by the rules and permissions is ongoing. And there are some seemingly small things that can land you, your bar, and even your bartenders in hot water.


Below are six serious ways you can lose your restaurant’s liquor license.


1. Overserving

It may seem obvious, and it’s definitely a fine line, but serving someone to the point of drunkenness, or continuing to serve a person that is already inebriated, can lead to some very serious consequences. Intoxication that leads to an accident, personal injury, or at worst, death, can mean that your bar, your bartender, and even you personally, could be held liable and be forced to pay damages. You’ll also lose your liquor license for good. So make sure that all of your staff are hyper aware of the consequences and are comfortable refusing to serve a patron under the influence.


2. Disorderly Conduct

Unlawful gambling, violence and fights, public drunkenness, and disturbing the peace are all reasons for your liquor license to be reviewed and/or revoked. If your venue sees it’s share of outbursts and aggression, it’s high time to review how much patrons are being served, and then work with your staff to establish an environment of respect and dignity. If patrons still want to brawl, it may be necessary to refuse service or ask belligerent customers to find another watering hole.


3. Serving Minors

This is a big no-no everywhere. In most states, the legal drinking age is 21 years old, and serving underage customers comes with consequences. Checking photo ID before service is the best way to be sure that everyone in your venue enjoying a libation is legally allowed to do so. Both you and your staff need to know what can make for fake identification: does the person in the photo look old enough to be the person on the ID? Is the face shape and facial characteristics the same? If unsure, prompt the person with questions about their zip code, how to spell their middle name, or their horoscope, and don’t serve them until you’re absolutely sure and confident that they are of age.


4. Untrained Service Staff

Most states have a ServSmart or SmartServe program that requires all staff that will be serving alcohol to complete the certification. In addition, service staff are required to be the legal drinking age in order to handle the hard stuff. And if they’re caught serving without state-required training – you’re going to be the one in the hot seat. The good news is: state-trained staff who have received their certification know the limit, are aware of the signs of intoxication, know when to refuse service, and are confident to do it in a diplomatic way. So check for the required certification before hiring.


5. Drinking in Unlicensed Areas

Washrooms, food preparation areas, storage areas, stairs, hallways, and outside areas are all places that serving or consuming alcohol is possibly prohibited in your establishment. And guess what? It’s your responsibility to make sure that guests aren’t wandering into these areas with a drink in hand. Posting signs to remind patrons to keep their drinks inside if they are stepping outside, to refrain from bringing them into restrooms, and to keep them off the stairs, is a good deterrent. Also tell staff to have a no-buts policy: absolutely no exceptions because your business is on the line.


6. Selling at Unauthorized Times

Your liquor license likely has specific sales times associated with it and they are not guidelines, they are set in stone. So if you’re still selling beer at 2:15am, even though 2am is shut down time, you can get into pretty deep trouble. When the time comes to close up, that means no more pouring. A courtesy fifteen to thirty minute heads up to let patrons place a final order and then another twenty to thirty minutes to finish their drinks is common, but you need to be absolutely clear that come closing time, all drinks go down the drain. No exceptions!


It’s important to make sure that you are fully aware of the expectations, responsibilities, and legal requirements of serving alcohol in your specific city and state. Keep in mind that ignorance of the law isn’t a viable excuse and won’t get you out of any trouble. When unsure – always play it safe with alcohol.



About the Author

Andrea Victory

Andrea is a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she writes about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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