Liability Issues to Understand and Avoid as a Bar Owner


Owning and operating a bar is a great way to run a business that you’ll enjoy. While bars can be lucrative, they also come with some inherent risks that you may not find with other businesses. Running a successful bar takes more than having a unique theme and a good selection of liquor. You must also have the right policies, procedures, and coverage in place to protect your business from potential liability issues.This is why every state has strict licensing procedures. It would be wise to make sure your employees also receive training like a New York on-premise alcohol training program.Here are several of the top liability exposures that a bar faces and how a business owner can mitigate those risks.

1. Slip and Falls

Believe it or not, slip and falls are the most common general liability claims in the industry according to reports from the National Restaurant Association. This can be a serious issue in a bar, where patrons are often standing around holding drinks. To reduce this risk, bars should have procedures in place to take care of spills immediately as well as assist anyone who does fall as quickly as possible. Your bar’s premises liability coverage should provide you the protection you need for these unfortunate events.

2. DUIs

Another common type of liability claim results from the accusation that patrons are over-served alcohol, leading them to get behind the wheel while under the influence. If they get into an accident and injure someone or, worse, take a life, the bar could find themselves the target of a lawsuit. In addition to a General Liability policy, owners should also have a Liquor Liability policy to protect against these claims.

3. Underage Drinking

Serving too much alcohol to bar patrons is a problem, but it’s also a serious issue when bars serve alcohol to minors. Underage drinkers with convincing fake IDs are entering bars and drinking, sometimes going on to get injured, become ill, or become involved in an accident. Underage drinking is illegal, so this could potentially get your bar into significant legal and regulatory trouble. One way to combat this is to properly train employees to spot fake IDs and verify that patrons are 21 years of age or older.

4. Unruly Behavior and Altercations

Other common causes of injuries and lawsuits in bars are alcohol-fueled unruly behavior and altercations. When intoxicated, people tend to take more risks both physically and emotionally. This can lead to a fun time or some serious consequences. When someone flies off of a mechanical bull, sprains an ankle doing the electric slide, or gets into a fight with another patron, your bar could be the target of a lawsuit. Be sure to carefully read each of your liability policies to make sure that these sorts of claims will be covered.

5. Unsafe Conditions

When you run a bar, you have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for your patrons. If the emergency exits aren’t properly marked, injuries can result if you need to evacuate. If you allow your premises to become overcrowded, the conditions will become unsafe. Finally, if you serve food, you must adhere to an entirely different set of health and safety standards. In short, keep your premises maintained, up to code, and in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal regulations.

The biggest danger in having a liquor license is the additional liability that comes along with it. As your bar’s owner, you’re legally responsible for the actions of both your employees and your patrons. Use these tips to mitigate that liability, particularly cutting down the problem of underage drinking. This will make the experience safe and enjoyable for your patrons and profitable for your establishment.