Drugs and Alcohol…

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard a few stories about drunk Bar Staff. Word spreads when you know a lot of people in a small town who work in the Industry. And if they were either drinking during shifts or acting like fools while out on the town, sooner or later someone will hear about it. But, we are dealing with adults here, and what they do in their off-time is up to them. However, what they do during work can be problematic…and costly.

Let’s be honest for a minute, shall we? If you work in the Bar and Nightclub Industry, at some point you will have an encounter with Drugs and Alcohol. Yes, I know, alcohol is served in a Bar. But that is not what I mean. I mean your fellow employees and Patrons using Drugs and Alcohol. There, I said it. Your co-workers could be drunk or high. And so could your Patrons. I can already hear the denials, “None of my Staff drinks!” or “We don’t allow drugs in our establishment!”, and to some extent I believe you. Well, maybe I believe about 1/4 of you.

The Bar and Nightclub environment breeds, sustains, and to some degree encourages substance abuse. Whether it is trying to get Patrons to buy more drinks (2 for 1 specials, anyone?), having the Bartenders be social (“Let’s all do shots!”), or needing a little extra energy to get through that Double Shift and Inventory (“We’ll do a tiny line of coke. No one will know.’), it happens! So, instead of working ourselves into a lather and vehemently denying that it occurs while 3 Patrons come out of the bathroom with powder rings around their noses and your bartender is slurrin’ and stumblin’, let’s look at the dangers from a  liability standpoint.

Use of Drugs and Alcohol by Security Staffers during a shift is incredibly negligent. Should anything happen during your shift, while you are drunk, not only can the Bar/Nightclub be sued, but you can as well. Why? The shortened legal definition of negligence is: “The failure to exercise that degree of care that…the law requires for the protection of other persons…that may be injuriously affected by the want of such care.” In other words, if someone in your establishment is hurt because you fail to notice a problem or issue, IT IS YOUR FAULT. They may have been acting stupid, but if you didn’t try to stop them or failed to stopped them, it’s on you. If Aunt Sally tries to dance on the bar and falls, breaking her arm because you were too buzzed to notice and stop her…you do the math. When the EMTs show up (probably with Law Enforcement in tow) and they smell alcohol on your Security Staffers’ breath? No bueno.

Any individual working Security under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an idiot. Plain and simple. At the most basic level, alcohol impairs your judgment and coordination. If your job is to consistently use your best judgment (“Does this person pose a threat?”) and possibly need to have excellent coordination (i.e. catching the drunk guy), why would you want to do the job drunk or high? I’ve heard the usual excuses, “It makes me more social/relaxes me/makes the time pass.” and while you might think these things, you are fooling yourself. Think about it this way: when you see a slightly intoxicated Patron, your first reaction is probably to keep an eye on them and see how they progress. Now what if that Patron was you…and you were trying to do a job? Again, no bueno.

We live in a litigious world. Why not take every step possible to shield yourself from litigation? If you are in the courtroom and the question, “Were you drinking during your shift?” comes up, you better be darn sure the answer is “No.” Some of you might say, “But drinking and drugs go with the territory!” Wrong. It only goes with the territory if you allow it to. I’m sure those of you who are regular readers and work in Bars know of at least one establishment that has been closed due to drug sales. Or have known a Staffer to be arrested for DUI after their shift. Why take the chance and have it be your establishment or Staffer? Sooner or later the laws of statistics WILL catch up to you.


The easiest solution for a Manager/Owner is to make a set of Bar Rules. They can be as simple as “No drinking on shift!” or as extreme as “No off-duty patronage of the bar.” Whatever you decide to make the rule, you must stick by it, and enforce it. With drinking, I generally recommend a warning (along with being sent home for the night) for the first offense and termination if the act is repeated. Drugs are automatic termination. Period. You have to let the Staff know that you are serious about your approach. And yes, that means that you can’t drink while working either!

Another option is to write a Drug and  Alcohol Policy into your employee manual. A quick Google Search (see how easy I make things for you?) will give you a plethora of options. At the bottom of each page of your Drug and Alcohol Policy, you should have a line for your employees to sign stating that they understand the Policy and repercussions for breaking it.

Finally, you MUST enforce your rules. Let me repeat that: YOU MUST ENFORCE YOUR RULES!!! It is pointless to come up with rules and policies if they are never enacted. Not to mention that you will find yourself in a legal mess if you have a stated set of policies and you are found to be violating them. If you are the boss, act like the boss. If you are a humble worker bee, make sure your fellow employees are keeping it together. If they are not, let someone know. It could end up saving your job.

Until next time…

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