A Complete Guide to Serving and Hosting Responsibly

For many, a boozy beverage makes the difference between an occasion and a celebration. At weddings, we raise a toast to the new couple. To congratulate a friend on a promotion, you buy the first round. For Christmas, there's spiked eggnog and on Valentine's Day, red wine.

This is to say the obvious: a little libation can grease the wheels of a social situation. And when done responsibly, a couple beverages can accentuate a fun event. Perhaps this is why, according to Gallup's 2012 Consumption Habits Poll, about 66 percent of Americans consume alcohol. On average, we imbibe just over four alcoholic drinks per week.

But there's another side to the world of alcohol consumption, the one with headlines about drunk driving accidents. The story about the college student who died of alcohol poisoning. The bar fight that ended in hospitalizations.

Unfortunately, these instances aren't rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Alcohol and Public Health" fact sheet states that each year in the U.S., excessive alcohol consumption contributes to approximately 80,000 deaths.

Alcohol-related accidents, injuries, and deaths cost everyone. The CDC's "Binge Drinking" fact sheet reports that excessive drinking, including binge drinking, cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006. That's about $1.90 a drink from losses in productivity, healthcare costs, crime, and other expenses.

And if you own a "dram shop" (a commercial establishment that sells alcohol) or are a "social host" (an individual who furnishes alcohol at a gathering), those costs can hit home in a tangible way.

When someone drinks too much at your establishment or event, you could be sued for the damage they cause – even if it happens away from your premises or home. That's because most states have liquor liability laws that hold establishments or individuals responsible when people overindulge at bars or parties.

Every time you host an event or invite patrons to drink at your bar, you open yourself up to the risk of a liquor liability lawsuit. And just the cost of hiring an attorney can be enough to financially drain a small business or an individual party host.

So what can you do to protect yourself from the high cost of lawsuits, keep your guests safe, and still serve or offer alcohol? In this guide, we'll examine…

  • What liquor liability is and who has it.
  • Liquor liability risks.
  • How and when you can be liable for liquor-related damages.
  • Everything you need to know about liquor liability lawsuits.
  • How to mitigate your liquor liability risks.

Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of liquor liability and the steps you can take to reduce the chance of an alcohol-related accident!

Next: Chapter 1: What Is Liquor Liability & Who Has It?

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