Tips to help keep holiday liquor sales safe and cheery

The consumption of alcoholic beverages during the holiday season will mean increased sales and bigger crowds for local restaurants, taverns, bars, and other businesses. With that in mind, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission is offering tips to its 19,000 liquor license holders — and a timely reminder, in turn, to their patrons — to help ensure a safe and prosperous holiday season.

“Our licensees create thousands of good-paying jobs and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the state’s budget every year. Their role in the state’s economy is very important,” MLCC Chairman Andy Deloney said. “Job providers can continue to grow their business and protect patrons by educating their employees on how to comply with Michigan’s liquor laws.”

These tips include:

— Check identification to avoid serving minors: License holders have a legal obligation to determine whether a patron is 21 years or older before selling or serving alcohol to them. Asking customers for valid identification is important and will prevent violations. Licensees can deter the use of fake and false IDs by continually informing minors that — under Michigan law — an attempt to purchase liquor by using a false ID is against the law and is punishable by imprisonment and/or fines.

Minors can access alcohol through friends and family who are of legal drinking age — that’s why the MLCC has teamed up with the “21 to Buy, Not Supply” campaign to help prevent minors from illegally obtaining alcohol. Providing alcohol to minors is a major offense that can lead to $1,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail.

— Avoid over-serving intoxicated customers: It is the licensee’s responsibility to make certain that no one becomes intoxicated in their business, and that any intoxicated person who enters their establishment is not allowed to purchase or consume alcohol. In fact, Michigan law prohibits licensees from selling or serving alcoholic beverages to individuals who appear to be intoxicated; it is also against the law to allow an intoxicated person to consume alcoholic beverages on their licensed premises.

There are serious consequences for selling alcoholic beverages to intoxicated individuals — including criminal penalties, fines and possible license suspension or revocation. The licensee may also be held liable in civil suits if the sale or furnishing of alcoholic beverages is found to be the proximate cause of damage, injury or death of an innocent party.

“There are many excellent, MLCC-approved training courses available to help licensees and their employees learn how to better identify intoxicated individuals,” Deloney said. “It is extremely important that staff remain vigilant while on the job to make sure they are aware when a patron has had too much to drink.”

— Avoid overcrowding and know the legal hours of operation: Overcrowding can lead to altercations and obstructed exits, and is a safety and fire hazard. Know your establishment’s capacity level to ensure a safe and enjoyable time for your guests. If the capacity of your business has not been determined by local authorities, check with the MLCC for the specific guidelines found within the liquor code.

— Maintaining control of the premises is the licensee’s responsibility. Keep order and control of the premises by constantly monitoring patrons and situations. Establish a policy and procedure for staff to report suspected illegal activity to management. While license holders do not have enforcement authority, employees can demand that a customer leave the premises and — if the situation appears threatening — may call the police.