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A Complete Safety Checklist for Bar Owners

Owning a busy bar involves keeping many plates spinning at once. Keeping your patrons happy is vital. So is ensuring that the establishment is running efficiently. But safety needs to be a priority, too, not only for yourself and your staff but also for your valued customers.

A bar with poor safety standards is a liability. Do you know how safe your bar is? Get your bar in tip-top condition with this handy safety checklist for bar owners, including everything from preparing for a health inspection to training your staff and ensuring that you are on the right side of the law.

Daily Prep for Health Inspectors

You should expect a visit from a health inspector at any time. It’s wise to be prepared for this. Typically, health inspectors will visit unannounced two or three times per year. A daily checklist will ensure you have everything on-hand should the health inspector demand it.

  • Know your state’s food safety standards: local regulations vary slightly from state to state. It’s your job to know exactly what applies to your establishment.
  • No Smartphones: Staff smartphones must be neither used nor in view during shifts.
  • Keep a notebook: Staff food safety procedures must be kept in writing. Have this on hand in case you are inspected.
  • Self-inspections: Perform regular self-inspections to make sure you would pass if a health inspector visited.
  • Invisible Inspector: To keep standards up, your staff should be trained to act as if there is a health inspector present at all times.
  • Spot Inspections: Run regular surprise spot-inspections. This will help ensure staff is maintaining standards.
  • Shift Contact: Designate someone for all shift-patterns to be the point of contact should a health inspector turn up.
  • Training: All staff need to be trained in food safety standards. Refresher courses can be beneficial.

ID Every Patron

Just because someone looks old enough to consume alcohol, it doesn’t mean they are. If you or a member of your staff gives alcohol to a minor, your bar will be liable. If you’re found liable, your business, reputation, and livelihood may be on the line.

The best way to protect your establishment is by requiring  every patron to show their ID who walks through the door. There are two ways you can do this:

  • Staff should be trained to request ID from patrons when they request an alcoholic beverage. If they are buying drinks for more than one person, the bar staff should ask for ID from each person before they serve the drinks.
  • Another way to “vet” your patrons before they enter the premises is by employing door security. Not only will they take care of any trouble for you, but they can ID every person that attempts to enter the premises.

Both of these options are very effective depending on the circumstances. Hire door security if you are exclusively serving beverages. However, it is unrealistic to ID everyone at the point of entry if you are serving food to families. In this case, your bar and wait staff should ID where appropriate.

Refuse Service as Necessary

One of the best ways to safeguard your establishment as well as your staff is by refusing to serve anyone that appears intoxicated. People who are under the influence of alcohol can be unpredictable and this is where the trouble can start. Fights, accidents, and injuries are all common incidents among intoxicated individuals. To avoid such scenarios, take steps to avoid their presence in your bar.

Train staff to be assertive when refusing service. They need to know how to recognize the signs of someone becoming too intoxicated. These include:

  • Slurring of words
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Stumbling, falling, or bumping into people
  • Excessive shouting and using foul language
  • Falling asleep at the bar

If someone is exhibiting one or more of these signs, your staff after consulting with management,  may refuse to serve them and ask them to vacate the premises immediately.

To reduce your liability, bar staff must not have any physical contact with intoxicated patrons. If someone refuses to leave your bar, staff should call the police. Having door security on-hand to provide assistance for your staff because they will be trained to deal with anyone that becomes physically unmanageable.

If you do not deal with intoxicated patrons, then you’re opening yourself up to many different problems. Any injuries sustained on your premises will be considered your fault. You will also be liable for any other bodily harm and property damage caused by the intoxicated person. The cost of this kind of lawsuit tends to be significant.

Train Your Staff

One of your best defenses against potential liability is having staff that is fully trained to do their job properly. Training is a key component in any risk-management strategy, so make sure your bar staff is no exception.

Your training safety checklist for bar owners should include:

  • Serving drinks in their proper measurements.
  • How to mix cocktails (if serving them) with the correct measurements.
  • Serving only approved cocktails and alcohol mixtures.
  • Providing a food menu alongside drinks (food consumption slows alcohol absorption).
  • Spotting the signs of intoxication (as detailed above).
  • Asking patrons for ID.
  • Refusal of service for intoxicated individuals.
  • Providing water for anyone who appears intoxicated.
  • How to effectively ask a patron to leave the premises.
  • How to effectively manage an aggressive patron.
  • Calling emergency services and giving a statement.
  • Basic first aid.

Properly trained bar staff is an asset to your business. Trained staff will work diligently to keep everyone as safe as possible and your bar out of potential legal trouble. Investing in training and refresher training is worthwhile.

You can train your staff in many ways:

  • Create a proper induction training program for new staff. Ensure new staff members complete this program before allowing them to serve customers.
  • Have all procedures clearly written somewhere for your staff to refer to when necessary.
  • Assign your more experienced staff to watch over and guide newer staff until they are confident to go it alone.
  • Have regular team meetings to address issues or concerns. Provide necessary training and solutions to overcome them.
  • Hold regular refresher training sessions for all staff.

Ensure Your Permits and Licenses Are Up-to-Date

This is one of the most essential checklists for bars. Without the correct or up-to-date permits and licenses, your business cannot operate. Local regulations will vary from state to state, so make sure you know what you need, before you need it.

  • Permits and license requirements can change from time to time. Stay on top of this by regularly checking to see if you’re still up-to-date and legal.
  • If any of your permits has an expiry date, ensure that you know when this is. Have all the necessary requirements and paperwork ready so that the permit renewal is a smooth process.
  • Health inspectors will also request to see your legal paperwork. Have this stored in a safe place ready to show anyone that requires it.

Failure to keep your licenses and permits up-to-date can result in some pretty large fines. In the worst cases, these problems could cause your business to shut its doors permanently. Operating illegally also opens you up to potential liability claims. This aspect of running a bar is 100% non-negotiable. If you haven’t performed an audit of your permits and licenses recently, now is the time to do so.

Clean Regularly

Cleaning must be an integral part of your employee’s shift. Consider it a constant or near-constant requirement. A clean establishment protects your customers from foodborne illnesses as well as avoiding slip and fall hazards caused by spillages. Establish a thorough cleaning routine for opening, mid-shift, and closing. Here is an example list of what should be happening:

Before opening:

  • Inspection of all areas.
  • Removal of all items from dishwashers and inspection for cleanliness.
  • Cleaning all tables, chairs, and bar surfaces.
  • Disinfecting and cleaning restrooms.

During opening hours:

  • Clearing up spills, trash, and other dirt.
  • Keeping tabletops clear of empty or dirty glasses, plates, and other items.
  • Keeping tabletops clean and spill-free.
  • Maintaining the restrooms.
  • Regularly emptying the trash.

When closing:

  • Clean and disinfect all kitchen surfaces and equipment.
  • Place all glassware in the dishwasher and run it.
  • Place all eating utensils and crockery in the dishwasher and run it.
  • Clean all beer and cider pump nozzles and dispensers.
  • Clean and mop all floors.
  • Take out all trash.

Other areas

  • Always check that uniforms and outfits are clean and stain-free before shifts.
  • Maintain stock and storage cupboards, fridges, freezers, and cellars.

Keep a close eye on the overall cleanliness of the bar. Perform random spot checks to ensure staff is keeping everything up to standard. Since you never know when the health inspector will pay you a visit, it’s never ok to let standards slip.

Invest in Bar & Tavern Liability Insurance

Even the most careful and thorough bar owners can sometimes find themselves in hot water. Nobody is perfect. Occasionally, accidents occur. Being found liable for an accident or incident can incur huge legal expenses. Even if you’re found not liable, you may still be responsible for legal fees.

The best way to protect yourself from such an event is by taking out bar and tavern liability insurance such as that provided by XINSURANCE. XINSURANCE is powered by Evolution Insurance Brokers, LC (“EIB”), an excess and surplus lines insurance brokerage and through our all-in-one coverage we are able to provide bar and tavern liability insurance to the following:

  • Bars, taverns, and wine bars.
  • Restaurants and other food service establishments.
  • Event venues.
  • Night clubs.
  • Other venues that serve alcohol.

XINSURANCE can provide coverage solutions even if you’ve been refused coverage in the past or have a claims history. We’re committed to providing the customized coverage that people really need.

Get in Touch Today

If you’d like to understand more about XINSURANCE and bar and tavern liability insurance, get in touch now.

All it takes is one bad customer to turn things sour. Can you afford to deal with the fallout if this happens? With XINSURANCE, we’ve got your back in case things go sideways. Call us today to find out how we can help you.

Rick LindseyAuthored by Rick J. Lindsey, President, Chairman, and CEO of XINSURANCE

Rick J. Lindsey hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. He began working in the mailroom of his father’s Salt Lake City insurance firm, getting his introduction to the business that became his lifelong career. Rick J. Lindsey quickly rose through the ranks while working in nearly every imaginable insurance industry job. As an entrepreneur, specialty lines underwriter, claims specialist, risk manager, and a licensed surplus lines broker, Rick J. Lindsey is highly skilled in all levels of leadership and execution. As he progressed on his career path, Rick J. Lindsey discovered an urgent need for insurers willing to write policies for high-risk individuals and businesses. He was frequently frustrated that he could not provide the liability protection these entities desperately needed to safeguard their assets. He also formed the belief that insurance companies acted too quickly to settle frivolous claims. Rick J. Lindsey decided to try a different approach. He started an insurance company and became the newly formed entity’s CEO. This opportunity has enabled Rick J. Lindsey to fill a void in the market and provide a valuable service to businesses, individuals, and insurance agents who write high-risk business. XINSURANCE also specializes in helping individuals and businesses who live a lifestyle or participate in activities that make them difficult for traditional carriers to insure. If you’ve been denied, non-renewed, or canceled coverage, don’t give up quite yet. Chances are XINSURANCE can help.