Bartenders: Are They Liable for What Their Patrons Do?

Drinking BeerA Palatine-area bar recently got into some legal “hot water.” In the mix were a former American Idol contestant, a bartender, and a nasty bar fight.

On July 8th, a confrontation between patrons and bar staff concerning a knocked-over table erupted into physical blows. The former American Idol contestant, who was asked to leave along with her group, ended up being charged with battery, and on the other side a bartender was arrested for the more serious charge of felony aggravated battery. His victim suffered a concussion, two black eyes, a broken nose, and a forehead cut.

This was a rare incident. Normally, bartenders don’t beat up their patrons. But do they sometimes cause other types of harm as well? Let’s talk dram shop.

What Are Dram Shop Laws?

Dram shop laws are statutes in various states, including Illinois, which hold proprietors of a business that serves alcohol at least partially responsible for the actions of intoxicated patrons.

In many states, these laws require proof that the bartenders or employees continued to serve alcohol to a clearly intoxicated patron for them to be held liable in a civil claim. In Illinois, however, that is not necessarily the case. It may merely be necessary to prove that the business served the alcohol which caused the person to become intoxicated.

Bartender Liability

A bartender’s liability would depend a great deal on his actions in a particular scenario, and whether he was acting in accordance with the bar’s rules. In general, bartenders are expected to be aware of the level of intoxication each patron exhibits while in a bar or restaurant. Whether or not they can be held personally liable after a patron causes harm to someone else…that’s a question best left for a court to decide.

Can a Bar Be to Blame for a DUI arrest?

From a civil standpoint, after an accident involving an intoxicated driver, a business that allowed that driver to become too inebriated to drive may be held legally liable for injuries and damages sustained.

Could it also be argued then, that a bar or bartender that continued to serve alcohol could be partially to blame for a DUI arrest? Well, not really.

There are different ways to build a defense against a DUI charge however, depending on the nature of your individual case. In general, despite the fact that mitigating factors are an important part of such a defense, the role that others may have played in over-serving at a bar or restaurant is not likely to be a winning argument. There are other, much better ways to defend against a DUI charge and your attorney can help you with such a defense.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, you need an experienced attorney by your side. Call Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today at (312) 644-0444. Our tough Chicago-area lawyers know a thing or two about solid DUI defense and we will aggressively represent your interests.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : June 24, 2020