How to Tell if Someone is Drunk at Your Bar & What to Do

Posted on February 12th, 2024.

When running a bar, it's imperative to know how to tell if someone is drunk to ensure the safety of patrons and staff. 

In this article, we'll explore the signs of intoxication, empowering you to identify drunk individuals effectively. By understanding these cues, you'll be equipped to take the necessary steps to uphold safety and responsibility in your establishment. 

From recognizing the subtle indicators of inebriation to implementing appropriate measures, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to maintain a secure environment for everyone. 

Let's delve into the essential aspects of identifying intoxication and ensuring the well-being of all.

The Importance of Promptly Spotting and Handling Intoxicated Customers

In any establishment serving alcohol, the safety and well-being of patrons and staff are paramount. Promptly recognizing and effectively managing intoxicated customers is not only a legal responsibility but also a moral obligation. The consequences of overlooking signs of intoxication can be severe, impacting not only the individuals involved but also the reputation and viability of the establishment.

This is why this matter holds such significance in the hospitality industry:

  • Safety: Intoxicated individuals pose a risk to themselves and others, increasing the likelihood of accidents, injuries, or altercations.
  • Legal Compliance: Serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons may lead to legal consequences for the establishment and its staff, including fines, license suspension, or closure.
  • Customer Experience: Intoxicated customers may disrupt the experience of other patrons, leading to dissatisfaction and potential loss of business.
  • Liability: Failure to address intoxication can result in liability issues if an intoxicated individual causes harm to themselves or others after leaving the establishment.
  • Reputation: Word-of-mouth and online reviews can quickly tarnish the reputation of a bar known for allowing intoxicated individuals to remain on the premises.

Now, let's explore the key indicators that can help identify intoxicated individuals and take appropriate action to maintain a safe and enjoyable environment for all.

Recognizing Signs of Intoxication

As a bartender, server, or staff member in an establishment serving alcohol, being able to recognize signs of intoxication is a vital skill. Not only does it enable you to uphold safety standards and legal compliance, but it also contributes to creating a welcoming and enjoyable environment for all patrons. 

From subtle behavioral changes to more overt physical manifestations, being attuned to the signs of intoxication empowers you to take proactive measures and ensure the well-being of everyone in the establishment. Here are some key indicators to look for:

1. Slurred Speech

Listen for unclear or muddled speech patterns, a common sign of intoxication.

2. Unsteady Movement

Watch for instability, stumbling, or difficulty maintaining balance while walking.

3. Impaired Judgment

Notice any lapses in decision-making abilities or risky behavior.

4. Aggressive Behavior

Be aware of escalating confrontations or hostility from patrons.

5. Slowed Reaction Time

Observe delayed responses to stimuli, indicating impaired reflexes.

6. Excessive Drinking

Monitor patrons consuming alcohol rapidly or ordering multiple drinks in a short time.

How to Handle Intoxicated Patrons

When operating a bar or establishment serving alcohol, effectively managing intoxicated patrons is essential for maintaining safety and legal compliance. Properly handling intoxicated individuals requires a combination of observation, communication skills, and decisive action. Let's explore the nuances of handling intoxicated patrons to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for all.

1. Observational Skills

Effective handling of intoxicated patrons begins with keen observational skills. Staff members should be trained to recognize subtle cues of intoxication, such as slurred speech, unsteady movements, and changes in behavior. By attentively observing patrons, staff can intervene early and prevent potential issues from escalating.

2. Communication Techniques

Communication is key when dealing with intoxicated patrons. Staff members should approach intoxicated individuals with empathy and understanding, avoiding confrontational or judgmental language. Clear and respectful communication can help de-escalate situations and encourage cooperation from patrons.

3. Firm but Tactful Approach

While it's important to be empathetic, staff members must also maintain a firm but tactful approach when handling intoxicated patrons. Establishing boundaries and enforcing house rules in a calm and assertive manner can help maintain order and prevent disruptions in the establishment.

4. Offering Assistance

When interacting with intoxicated patrons, staff should offer assistance and support where necessary. This may involve:

  • Providing water or non-alcoholic beverages to promote hydration.
  • Offering food options to help mitigate the effects of alcohol.
  • Assisting in arranging safe transportation home, such as calling a taxi or rideshare service.
  • Helping the individual locate a friend or designated driver to ensure they get home safely.
  • Offering a quiet and safe space for the patron to rest and recover if needed.

Offering assistance demonstrates care for the patron's well-being and promotes responsible alcohol service.

5. Enforcing Policies

Establishments serving alcohol should have clear policies in place for handling intoxicated patrons. These policies may include:

  • Refusing further alcohol service to visibly intoxicated individuals.
  • Asking intoxicated patrons to leave the premises if they pose a risk to themselves or others.
  • Implementing a limit on the number of drinks served to each patron to prevent overconsumption.
  • Providing training for staff members on how to recognize signs of intoxication and intervene appropriately.
  • Establishing procedures for handling instances of aggressive or disruptive behavior from intoxicated patrons.

By enforcing these policies effectively, establishments can promote responsible alcohol service and maintain a safe environment for all patrons and staff members.

6. Implementing Training Programs

Enrolling staff in training courses like our drug assessment and recognition program is essential for effective handling of intoxicated individuals. Quest Safety Training offers comprehensive courses that equip staff with the knowledge and skills needed to manage intoxicated patrons confidently and responsibly. Our experienced instructors provide valuable insights and practical strategies to ensure a safe environment for all patrons.

Related: What to Do If You Suspect an Employee Is Under the Influence? A Manager's Guide 


Recognizing and handling intoxicated customers promptly is essential for maintaining a safe and enjoyable environment in any establishment serving alcohol. By understanding the importance of spotting signs of intoxication and taking appropriate action, you not only uphold legal compliance but also prioritize the safety and well-being of patrons and staff.

At Quest Safety Training, we understand the importance of equipping bar owners, staff, and servers with the necessary skills and knowledge to manage intoxication effectively. Our comprehensive safety training courses, including drug assessment and recognition training, are designed to provide valuable insights and practical strategies for handling intoxicated individuals.

If you're interested in enhancing your staff's training and ensuring a safer environment in your establishment, we invite you to contact us. Contact us today at [email protected] to learn more about our courses and how we can support your efforts in promoting responsible alcohol service and maintaining a secure environment.


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We're here to help you on your journey to safety. Have questions or need more information about our training programs? Reach out to Quest Safety Training – where safety meets expertise!