Serving alcohol; a bar's responsibility

Published: Sep. 4, 2019 at 6:41 PM EDT
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Praneeth Manubolo is charged with three counts of manslaughter for a deadly crash in Acadia National Park.

Court documents say he told police he and the others in the car had been drinking shots at last call at a bar in Bar Harbor before the crash.

We sat down with state officials and bar owners to talk about what responsibilities fall on those who work in the bars.

Gregg Mineo, Director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations says, "Really the law is clear on this. The responsibility falls on the license holder."

43 states across the country, including Maine, participate in some form of the Liquor Liability Act.

It's considered negligent conduct to serve liquor to a drunk person, if a reasonable and prudent person should have known the person being served is intoxicated.

Mineo says, "What did you do? Did you clearly identify the individual or individuals as being intoxicated, essentially over the limit and what did you do to act upon that?"

State officials say the law was established to form a legal basis for obtaining compensation for damage resulting from drunkenness.

Mineo says, "What we encourage a license holder to do is certainly to stop service at that time, clearly document what has happened, who the individuals are. Describe them and the time of day, what they consumed at that point and then report it to the authorities."

Bar owners I spoke with say of course they want their patrons to have a great time, but safety is their main priority.

Melissa Smith, Owner of Happy Endings in downtown Bangor says, "The city of Bangor requires that all bartenders and servers, anyone serving alcohol, be tip certified."

Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS is a dynamic, skills-based training program designed to prevent intoxication, drunk driving, and underage drinking by enhancing the fundamental "people skills" of servers, sellers, and consumers of alcohol.

Even though the law seems cut and dry, accidents still happen, and sometimes an individual's level of intoxication isn't always easy to spot.

Smith says they cut patrons off, offer to pay for cabs, call Ubers, and make every effort to make sure someone gets home safely.

She says, "Even if we've take all the right steps, unless they get in a cab right in front of the restaurant, I don't know if they walked around the corner and got in a car. We do everything we can, but at the end of the day, they have to make the right decision."

Damages may be awarded for property damage, bodily injury, or death caused by the consumption of liquor served by the defendant.

The limit on awards is $250,000 plus medical expenses.

Smith says, "Our goal is to bring you in and have a good time but get you home safe so you can come back and have fun again."

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