Are You a “Bad Bar”? Eight Risky Behaviors You Should Fix Today

Sometimes the general attitude and feeling of your bar can change. A bad hire or a new group of customers can completely throw off the positivity and general sense of an alcohol-serving establishment. The best thing you can do is look for these eight risky behaviors and address them before they have a negative impact.


Permitting Customers to Over Consume Alcohol

Overselling to customers may seem like the best way to be profitable, but it damages the bottom line. Not only do you run the risk of having out of control patrons, but it's also illegal in most states. The fine per person typically costs between $500 - $1500 an incident. In states where dram shop liability rules are in play at the state or local level, you're also putting the establishment at risk for lawsuits and legal action. Trials can end up costing tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Proper training on this topic can help increase awareness and reduce risk.


Promoting Aggressive Drinking Situations

Supporting aggressive drinking situations such as bar games, drink specials, and drinking while watching sports can result in an unruly crowd. Instead, drinking games should not be condoned, and drink specials should be within the limits of legal intoxication or offered with food. While sporting events can draw in large crowds, there shouldn't be any further encouraging activities such as a drink for every time the hometown team scores. Instead, include a house policy discouraging this behavior and enforce it when necessary.


None or Limited Security

You should have at least one security staff person on hand for every 60-70 patrons on-premises. They can help patrol, resolve issues, and if needed, ask patrons to leave or engage the police when necessary. You will need to hire or have adequately trained security staff.



Allowing a large number of people in your establishment, while good for business can also encourage aggressive behavior. When people are placed too closely together while drinking alcohol can increase the risk of outbursts due to accidental touching, bumping, and drink spilling. Instead, your establishment should focus on a maximum limit (written in your house policy and enforced by door staff) that allows for comfortable movement of your patrons in the establishment and to and from their seats to the bar or restrooms. 


Physical Destruction, Sex, or Drug Use in the Bathrooms

Restrooms are hot spots for risky behaviors. Physical damage, sex, and drug use must not be allowed. Therefore a manager, designated bartender, or security staff should be patrolling these areas frequently. Patrols can be implemented through house policies, shift rotation, and monitoring.


Allowing Impaired or Aggressive Customers to Enter

Controlling entry is an essential aspect of maintaining a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. 90% of the problems can be stopped at the door. Simply put, don’t allow impaired or aggressive customers to enter.  Anyone who is showing signs of visible intoxication should be stopped at the entrance. Having house policies that help supplement proper training can provide guidelines for door staff to follow.


Allowing Staff to Drink While on Duty

While not allowing staff to drink on duty isn't a hard law in all states, it is certainly recommended. Drinking on duty is outlawed or discouraged because everything we previously talked about requires a level of judgment and common sense which can be impaired by consuming alcohol. If state law doesn't exist, you should include very specific guidelines about drinking on duty in your house policies.


Allowing Underage Patrons in Your Establishment

Under the same lines of allowing impaired individuals in, you should also not let underage individuals enter your premises when only alcohol is being served (unless allowed by your state regulations). Serving to underage individuals typically results in higher fines and public lawsuits, which can condemn a bar's reputation. Door staff should be appropriately trained on how to card individuals, spot underage drinkers as well as fake identification in your state.

Learn more about Bartending 101 and Bartender Tools.

  1. JS
    I am attending a wine tasting fundraiser and have volunteered to be server/pour person. Do I need a bartender’s license? This will be held in the state of Wisconsin.