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Alcohol serviceÖ..itís not all black and white

Ashling McWilliam for local2 sault ste. marie
December 12th, 2011 at 1:02pm

This article is a column or editorial.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of LOCAL2.

Itís the holiday season and the festivities have begun. In the spirit of the holidays, friends and families will be attending parties, eating dinners, indulging in wine and, other activities that will all result in larger than normal restaurant tabs. You may assume that the servers and bartenders waiting on you are making the big bucks, and this may or may not be true. However, these payoffs donít come without their own set of risks. Today, servers and bartenders in the restaurant industry are held personally liable for the actions and well-being of customers who have consumed alcohol on the premises. The Supreme Court of Canada states that you owe ďa duty of careĒ to your patrons. Servers and the restaurant owner can be held equally responsible for any fines, arrests, imprisonment or civil liability that may arise as the result of court findings.

bartender tip glassWhile facilitating Smart Serve workshops at the Sault Community Career Centre I am often asked, ďHow do we know if a person has had too much to drink?Ē This is where I have to tell workshop participants that itís not all black and white. The refusal of minors is a straightforward law; if they are under the age of 19 you just donít serve them alcohol, EVER. But how do you know if a patron who is of legal age is drunk or not? Itís a grey area. In todayís world of law suits and counter law suits, a server must be very careful to never serve an intoxicated guest and furthermore, to never serve a guest to the point of intoxication. Thatís why a job in this industry not only requires excellent multi-tasking and customer service skills, but also well honed negotiation skills and a strong attention to detail. Not only is your server responsible for making sure your food is enjoyable and served in a timely fashion, they are required to juggle the pressures of franchise rules which stipulate ďNO empty glasses on any of your tables, up-sell those drinks!!Ē and the Liquor License Act which in turn renders them your babysitter as soon as youíve had a drink!

While it is generally true that you can potentially earn huge amounts of money when bartending or serving, be aware that the earnings are countered by required skills and attention to regulation. It is now the server/bartenderís ďDUTY OF CAREĒ to ensure that no one leaves their establishment intoxicated or becomes intoxicated on the premises. What does this mean? Specifically, it is the responsibility of the bartender or server to assess the patron who is ordering alcohol. What are they assessing? What do you have to know? A course has been developed to address these questions and to assist the service industry in making safe, assertive and customer focused decisions. This course is called Smart Serve and is recognized, in many cases, as a compulsory certification for working in the hospitality industry. It is available online or through various agencies who have been designated as delivery agents.

The Sault Community Career Centre is one of the designated delivery agencies. Recognizing that Smart Serve is a workshop designed to assist those in the restaurant industry with this balancing act, our centre facilitates this workshop in the hopes of keeping people informed, educated, and protected. Keep in mind that this workshop is intended for anyone serving alcohol. Perhaps you are a waitress, or maybe youíre simply holding a Christmas party in the privacy of your own home. Whatever the case, everyone can benefit from the tactics and strategies provided through Smart Serve. Here at the Sault Community Career Centre we offer Smart Serve on a monthly basis. December is the last month where it will be offered free of charge, so phone in and sign up! In the New Year we will still be holding the workshop but there will be a charge to cover workbook costs. Sign up now and be prepared in every way for responsible alcohol service now and moving forward into 2012!


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