‘I’VE BEEN DRINKING all day,” said the guy in the Santa hat who appeared — as if in the wink of an eye — at the bar.
He looked like something out of the Christmas poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” specifically, “His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!”
Except that in this context, he was full of a different type of Christmas cheer.
I don’t know where he came from, but I knew where he was headed.
“Excuse me darlin,'” he said after bumping into a woman seated at the bar.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter where he got like that, because he had become our problem.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said after knocking over an empty glass causing it to shatter on the bar.
I wiped up the mess while gesturing to my barback. When you work with people long enough, sometimes all it takes is a gesture to get a point across.
“What?” asked the barback. Then again sometimes it takes more than that.
“Go get the manager.”
“Well?” Mr. Rosy Cheeks asked.
“Can I get a drink?”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
“What do you mean?”
Bartenders “cut people off” all the time. Usually we try and do it gracefully, trying not to cause undue embarrassment to a guest. It is an awkward situation. Bars are in the business of selling alcohol after all, so it takes some exceptional behavior in order to be “cut off” because that means a loss of revenue.
Bartenders walk a thin line; serving someone who is obviously intoxicated is actually a misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine, up to year in jail or both. If the offense is grievous enough the establishment may be held liable.
Still, we as bartenders have a moral responsibility involved in the selling of alcohol; luckily the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control gives us some guidelines with its signs of intoxication:
Relaxed inhibitions: Overly friendly; loud, drinking alone; annoying others; using foul language; drinking more or faster than usual.
Impaired judgments: Complaints about strength of drink; ordering doubles; argumentative; careless with money; buying rounds for strangers; irrational statements; belligerent; loss of train of thought.
Reactions: Slurred speech; slow and deliberate movement; decreased alertness; quick, slow or fluctuating pace of speech.
Coordination: Fumbling with money; spilling drinks; cannot find mouth with drink; swaying; drowsy; stumbling; falling.
Appearance: Red, watery eyes; disheveled clothing; sweating; smell of alcohol on person; droopy eyelids.
Mr. Rosy Cheeks had exhibited several of these traits; however, he still seemed troubled by my refusal to serve him.
“I haven’t had anything to drink here. And I’m not driving.”
Both of which were true and good, but neither mattered because according to the law neither matter. If you are obviously intoxicated, you cannot be served.
By the time the manager arrived, Mr. Rosy Cheeks had tried several different angles in order to procure a drink. The conversation then took a different tack.
“I don’t appreciate your employee’s attitude,” he said, slurring his words. “I’m not comfortable with him refusing to serve me.”
Both are classic restaurant attempts at manipulation. But a word of advice here — if you do find yourself in a situation where you are “cut off,” don’t argue. It is really only going to get worse.
Instead of leaving our establishment in a yellow car he left it in a black-and-white one. And, trust me, the folks in that car didn’t care much about his opinion of their attitudes.