Liquor laws
Minors and alcohol
Effects of alcohol on the human body
Identifying Intoxicated Guests and Preventing Alcohol Service
Intervention and fight prevention

Liquor laws

Unlike many states, Nevada does not have a state agency that regulates liquor laws. If you wish to obtain a license to sell or serve alcohol, you must obtain the license from the city or county, not the State. In Nevada, liquor licenses are issued by county and city governments.

Although there are Nevada State laws regarding the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages, the majority of liquor laws are created at the county and city level. Because of this, cities within the state of Nevada may have different liquor laws.

An incorporated city may create their own liquor laws and the liquor laws of the county would not apply.

For example: In Clark County you must be at least 21 to sell alcohol in sealed containers (retail cashiers). Although the City of Henderson is located within Clark County, Henderson law allows someone who is 18 years old to sell alcohol in sealed containers (within certain guidelines).

In Washoe County a 16 year old may sell alcohol in sealed containers providing they are directly supervised by someone who is at least 21. The City of Sparks allows a 16 year old to sell alcohol in sealed containers when supervised by someone who is at least 18.

In this section, we will attempt to explain some of the important State, County, and City liquor laws. Extra care has been made to clarify any confusing legal terminology to ensure you thoroughly understand the material.

Alcoholic Beverages

According to Nevada law, an alcoholic beverage is considered anything that contains ½ of 1 percent or more alcohol by volume. (NRS 202.015) This is a very small amount of alcohol.

To make this easier to understand: Imagine pouring 200 shot glasses filled with a liquid into a large bottle. If the liquid in just one of those glasses was pure alcohol, according to Nevada law, the entire bottle would be considered an alcoholic beverage.

Alcohol by Volume
It is against Nevada law to sell an alcoholic beverage that contains more than 80% alcohol by volume. (NRS 202.065)

Beer generally contains about 5% alcohol, wines are approximately 12% and most hard liquor is about 40% alcohol by volume.


In Nevada, for the purpose of selling or serving alcohol, a minor is considered any person under the age of 21 years.

It is against the law in Nevada for a minor to purchase or consume alcohol. (NRS 202.020)

This law is simple and fundamental: Minors are not allowed to buy or drink alcohol.

Minors in Possession of Alcohol

It is against the law in Nevada for a minor to have alcohol in their possession. (NRS 202.020)

There are a few exceptions to this law:

  • A minor may possess alcohol for an established religious purpose. (Communion Wine, etc.)
  • A parent or legal guardian (who is at least 21 years of age) may give alcohol to their child. However, there are three important conditions:
  1. The minor must be their child. (No nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors, etc.).
  2. The alcohol must be given inside their home or dwelling place. (Minors may not drink alcohol in a public place including restaurants).
  3. The parent or legal guardian who is giving alcohol to the minor must be with the minor at the time.
  • A minor may possess alcohol if it is prescribed by a licensed physician.
  • A minor may handle or transport alcohol (sealed) if he or she works for a licensed manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer. For example, the State of Nevada would allow an 18 year old to drive and deliver beer from a delivery truck.

Minors Loitering

 In Nevada, minors are not allowed to loiter or stay on the premises of any establishment that sells alcohol. (NRS 202.030)

A minor is allowed to be in the dining area of a restaurant, however the bar or lounge area is off-limits to minors.

Minors with Fake IDs

It is against the Law in Nevada for a minor to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol. (NRS 202.040)

A fake ID includes identification documents that are altered, forged, counterfeit, or borrowed.

Selling or Serving to Minors

It is against the law in Nevada for anyone to give or sell alcohol to a minor. (NRS 202.055)

Leaving Alcohol Accessible to Minors

It is against the law in Nevada for anyone to leave alcohol somewhere knowing that a minor is going to pick it up. (NRS 202.055)

Giving Money to Minors for Alcohol

It is against the law in Nevada for anyone to give a minor money (or anything of value) if the person knows that the minor is going to exchange it for alcohol. (NRS 202.055)

Driving Under the Influence

 In Nevada it is against the law to be drunk and drive. You are considered drunk if your blood alcohol content is .08 or higher. (NRS 484.379)

This does not mean that you cannot be charged for driving under the influence if your blood alcohol content is less than .08. In Nevada, if you are driving while impaired, you can be charged with driving under the influence regardless of your Blood Alcohol Content.

Driving under the influence is not limited to alcohol. You can also be convicted of driving under the influence of illegal or even prescription drugs.

You do not have to be driving the vehicle to be convicted of driving under the influence. If you are in control of the vehicle, even if you are asleep in the back seat, you can be charged with driving under the influence.

Drinking While Driving

In Nevada it is against the law to drink and drive. (NRS 484.448)

It doesn’t matter if you are legally sober and driving perfectly safe. You cannot drink any alcoholic beverage while in control of a motor vehicle.

Open Containers

 In Nevada you cannot have an open container of alcohol in the passenger section of a motor vehicle. (NRS 484.448)

The passenger section is considered anywhere inside the vehicle where a person can sit (including the driver’s seat).

There are two exceptions to this law:

  1. If the vehicle is for hire, (tour busses, limousines, and taxi cabs) you can have open containers of alcohol.
  2. You can also have open containers of alcohol in a motor home.


In Nevada, if you serve or furnish alcohol to a person 21 years of age or older, you cannot be held liable for any damages the person may have caused as a result of drinking the alcohol. (NRS 41.1305)

Many states have liability or “Dram Shop” laws. These laws are intended to protect third parties by allowing recovery of damages from the person who sold or served the alcohol. This provides an incentive for more responsible conduct on the part of anyone who holds a liquor license. However, Nevada has followed the older common law rule that drunks are responsible for their own actions.

This does not mean it’s alright to over-serve someone. If a person is intoxicated and asking for more, it is your obligation and responsibility to refuse alcohol service.

It is very important to understand that if you sell or serve alcohol to a minor, you can be held liable in a civil action for any damage caused by the minor. In other words, if you furnish alcohol to a minor, you can be sued for any damages he or she may cause.

Nevada State Gaming Regulations and Alcohol

Under Nevada State Gaming Control Regulations, it is grounds for disciplinary action on the part of any gaming licensee, agent or employee that would reflect or tend to reflect discredit upon the State of Nevada or the gaming industry. This includes:

Permitting persons who are visibly intoxicated to participate in gaming activity. (NGCB 5.011.01)

Casinos are not allowed (by gaming regulations) to allow anyone to gamble while they are visibly intoxicated. Many people are under the false impression that casinos try to get customers drunk in order to take advantage of their vulnerability. This is far from the truth. If a casino guest is drunk and gambling, it reflects a negative impression on the casino itself, the casino employees who allowed it to happen, and the gaming industry as a whole.

Providing Complimentary Cocktails to Intoxicated Individuals

It is also against Nevada Gaming Regulations to give someone complimentary cocktails if they are visibly intoxicated. (NGCB 5.011.02)

One of the biggest responsibilities of Cocktail Servers, Dealers, Floor Supervisors, Pit Managers, and Casino Hosts is to monitor their guests to ensure their gaming experience is both enjoyable and sober. Complimentary alcoholic beverage service given to casino customers should be monitored and controlled. It is important for Cocktail Servers to communicate with other casino employees and among themselves to ensure casino guests do not become intoxicated.

County Liquor Laws

Privileged Business

The sale and distribution of alcohol is not a matter of right but of privilege. Simply applying for a liquor license does not guarantee you will receive one. Each applicant must successfully complete a security, background and financial check. Also, if you are lucky enough to receive a liquor license, there is no guarantee you will keep the license. Once a liquor license is issued, counties (and cities) may revoke or suspend the license to protect the safety, welfare, health, peace and morals of the community.

Types of Licenses

There are many different types of licenses that allow the sale and distribution of alcohol. Each county has its own designation and description of the various types of licenses. Certain businesses may require more than one license. Listed below are the types of licenses available in Clark and Washoe counties:

Clark County 8.2020.15 Washoe County

(a) Brewery (b) Brew Pub (c) Club (d) Full Bar (e) Hospitality Liquor Service (f) Hospitality Suite (g) Import – Wholesale (h) Individual Access (i) Liquor Caterer License (j) Main Bar (k) Master Liquor License (l) Open Air Sport Facility (m) Package Beer Key Delivery (n) Package Beer (o) Package Beer, Wine and Spirit Based Products (p) Package Liquor License (q) Portable Bar License (r) Public Facility Club License (s) Retail Beer License (t) Retail Beer and Wine License (u) Service Bar (v) Specialty Drink License (w) Sports and/or Convention Facility License (x) Supper Club License (y) Tavern License (z) Wine, Beer, Cordial and Liqueur Tasting License

L-1 Tavern (Bar) L-2 Package Liquor (Liquor & Wine) L-3 Cabaret (Bar with entertainment/Dancing) L-4 Retail Beer/Wine (Pizza Parlor, Deli) L-5 Package Beer L-6 Wholesale Distributor/Importer L-7 Service Bar; No Customer Access

Furnishing Alcohol to Minors

In addition to Nevada law, Clark County and Washoe County have ordinances that restrict the sale and service of alcohol to minors.

In both counties, it is against the law to sell or furnish alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.

Clark County Code: 8.20.340 Washoe County Code: 30.235

Sale of Alcohol to Minors

In Clark County it is against the law to allow a minor to sell or handle any alcoholic liquor of any kind.

Clark County Code: 8.20.360

In Washoe County a 16 year old is allowed to sell alcohol in a package store. There are two restrictions to this law:

  1. The alcohol must be sold in the original sealed container.
  2. The minor selling the alcohol must be under the direct supervision of a person at least 21 years of age

Washoe County Code: 30.225

In Clark County and Washoe County, minors are not permitted to sell or serve alcohol in open containers.

Selling Alcohol Outside the Licensed Establishment 

In Clark County and Washoe County it is against the law to sell, serve, or give away alcohol outside the building from which the license was approved.

The County Licensing Board may allow you to sell and serve alcohol in an outdoor area such as a pool or patio. However, these areas must be strictly managed and supervised.

Clark County Code: 8.20.310 Washoe County Code: 30.320

City Ordinances

Cities in Nevada often create their own ordinances that further restrict state liquor laws or are specifically designed to fit the needs of the individual city.

For example, although most cities in Nevada have created ordinances that prohibit anyone from consuming alcohol in public places, some cities will allow it during special events or with a permit. Also, every city in Nevada has an ordinance which prohibits anyone from selling or serving alcohol while they are intoxicated.

Other examples of city liquor laws are:

In Las Vegas it is against the law to sell alcohol in glass or metal containers during certain holidays and special events. (6.50.470)

In North Las Vegas, a 16 year old may handle alcohol in a package store (as a stock person or courtesy clerk) and an 18 year old may sell alcohol (in the original sealed containers) providing they are under the supervision of someone who is at least 21 years of age. (5.26.460)

In Sparks it is a violation to sell or serve alcohol to someone in a military uniform if the local commanding officer has issued an order prohibiting it. (9.36.020)

Minors and alcohol

If you are a cocktail server, bartender, food server, retail cashier or security officer, you have a legal and moral responsibility to prevent minors from purchasing and consuming alcoholic beverages.

In this section we will explain

  • How you can be held personally accountable for the actions of a minor if you sell or serve alcohol to anyone under 21.
  • Areas where minors are allowed even though alcohol is served.
  • Methods used by minors attempting to purchase alcohol.
  • Various forms of identification that you can use to make certain the person you are serving is over 21.
  • The police undercover operations that are used to ensure employees and businesses throughout Nevada are not selling or serving alcohol (and tobacco products) to minors.


Selling or serving alcohol to a minor is a serious offense. In Nevada if you are caught and convicted of selling or serving alcohol to anyone under 21 years old, you could:

  • Lose your job.
  • Receive a large fine.
  • Be forced to complete community service.
  • Be sent to jail.
  • Have a police record.

The law is very specific. Also, if you sell alcoholic beverages or packaged liquor to a minor you can receive the above penalties even if you didn’t know the person was a minor.

Your only defense for selling alcohol to a minor is proof that you asked the minor for identification before they were served and you honestly believed the identification was legitimate.

In other words: Let’s assume a person wants to buy alcohol. You check the person’s identification and see that the picture and description match. You also see that the birth date indicates the person is at least 21. If you sell this person alcohol and later it is found that the identification was false and the person was a minor, you are innocent of wrongdoing. This is called “due diligence”. There are many very good fake identifications and no one can be expected to recognize them all. You did your best.

To prevent the sale and service of alcohol to minors, many businesses have established policies regarding when to check ID’s. Some businesses will check if the person looks younger than 25 years old. Some will check ID’s if the person looks younger than 40 while others will check everyone’s ID regardless of how old they appear. There is no law or regulation that requires you to check an ID if a person looks younger than a certain age. You should ask your employer what the company policy is regarding checking ID’s.

Areas Where Minors Are Allowed

State, county, and city laws prohibit minors from being in a bar or a place that sells alcoholic beverages with the following exceptions:

  • A minor may be in the dining area of a restaurant but is not allowed in the bar area for any reason. However, the restaurant must have dining tables and booths that are separate from the bar, and the meals served must consist of more than just sandwiches and salads.
  • A minor may be in the theater (show-room) of a hotel/casino but they must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.
  • If a minor is employed as an entertainer, they may be in an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages but only while they are actually working.
  • A minor is allowed to repair a mechanical device in a place that serves alcohol, but must leave immediately upon completion of the job.

If an employee allows a minor to remain in any place that serves alcoholic beverages, the employee can be fined up to $1,000 and be given up to six months in jail. Also, the liquor license of the establishment can be suspended or revoked.

If your establishment has casino gaming, minors are not allowed near any gaming machines or table games. Anyone under the age of 21 who loiters on the premises or an establishment where alcohol is sold can be fined up to $500.

Methods Used by Minors to Purchase Alcohol

A minor may attempt to purchase alcohol hoping you are too busy or too lazy to ask for identification.

Sometimes, if you ask a minor for identification, he or she will present their actual ID and hope you can’t calculate their correct age.

Minors may present their ID before you ask to see it. Sometimes when bartenders or cashiers see a person offer to show their ID before being asked, they assume the person must be over 21 or they wouldn’t be willing to show it.

A minor may take an empty beer bottle into a bar or casino and ask the bartender: “Can I have another one of these?”

Sometimes at bars and sporting events, an adult will attempt to purchase several drinks at once and carry them back to their seat. Your responsibility is to make sure everyone receiving the alcohol is at least 21 years of age.

Occasionally, minors will loiter outside retail stores asking adults to purchase alcohol for them. If you have actual knowledge of this transaction, notify a manager or a law enforcement agency and do not sell the alcohol to the adult.

Some large retail stores have more than one entrance and exit. Minors will sometimes attempt to purchase alcohol in the garden or automotive department thinking the cashiers are not skilled at checking identification.

A number of grocery stores now have self-service cash registers that are loosely monitored by employees. Minors will sometimes attempt to purchase alcohol at these check-stands.

Some minors will carry two different sets of identification. A false set used to purchase alcohol, and a valid set which they will use if questioned by police. If approached by police, they will discard the falsified set and show the legal one to the law enforcement authorities.


It is important to look closely at the identification.

Be sure the identification you accept is genuine and matches the person who is presenting it to you. When in doubt, refuse service.

If a minor falsely represents themselves as being 21 years of age or older (in an attempt to obtain alcoholic beverages) he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined from $100 to $500 and be sentenced up to 6 months in jail.

Identification Documents

There are many different types of identification documents available. It is important to understand what is acceptable and what is not. Acceptable identification should only come from a state or federal agency which verifies the identity of the individual.

There is no exclusive federal document used to verify the identity of the bearer. Because of this, several types of documents designed for other purposes have become identification documents.

One example of this is a driver’s license. It was originally provided to show that the bearer had passed the necessary qualifications to drive a car. However, because its use as an identification card has become so widespread, most states issue an identification card for people who do not drive.

Types of Identification

Secure Identification:

  • State Issued Driver’s License
  • State Issued Driver’s Instruction Permit (with photo)
  • State-Issued Photo Identification Card
  • Passport
  • Military Identification Card
  • Federal Issued Immigration Cards:
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Alien Registration Card

Insecure Identification:

  • Birth Certificate*
  • Sheriff or Police Work Card**
  • Alcohol Certification Card***
  • Student Identification
  • Military Discharge Papers
  • Temporary Driver’s License (paper)
  • Employee Identification
  • Car Registration
  • Welfare Card
  • Social Security Card
  • Checkbook
  • Bankbook
  • Credit Card
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Bills
  • Voter Registration Card

*A birth certificate will show the date of birth but will not show any identifying information and is worthless as a form of identification.

**A work (or Gaming Card) issued by the Police Department does not include the date of birth.

***Alcohol Certification Cards do not include the birth date and you do not have to be 21 years

State Driver’s License

The state issued driver’s license is the most widely used identification document. These documents may be called:

  • driver’s license
  • operator’s license
  • operator driver’s license

Every driver’s license issued in the United States will include the person’s:

  • Full name
  • Address (including zip code)
  • Date of birth
  • Signature
  • Expiration date
  • Color photo

When looking at a driver’s license, look for a profile photo or a red backdrop behind the photo. In many states, this identifies the bearer as a minor. Other states will print “UNDER 21” on the face of the license. Some states will also encode the date of birth in the license number. In Nevada, if a person is under 21, the state will issue a “Vertical License”. This is a license with the orientation of the picture and text in the “portrait” format.

Click here to view the Nevada Driver’s License

Some businesses in Nevada believe that an expired driver’s license cannot be used for the purpose of selling or serving alcohol. This is not true. The function of the driver’s license is to show that the bearer is authorized to drive. If the license is genuine and verifies the person is at least 21 years old, it can be used for selling or serving alcohol. It doesn’t matter if the license is current or expired.


A passport is an official government document that certifies the bearer’s identity and citizenship and allows the person to travel into other countries.

A passport is a relatively difficult document to forge or counterfeit.

Passports will include:

  • Photograph
  • Name
  • Sex
  • Birth Date
  • Place of Birth
  • Issue Date
  • Expiration Date

Passports do not include:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Hair Color
  • Eye Color
  • Signature

All persons (including U.S. citizens) traveling by air from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda are required to have a passport in order to enter the United States. A second phase of passport requirements will apply to land and sea travelers, beginning in 2008.

False Identification

These include:

  • Borrowed
  • Altered
  • Counterfeit
  • Forged


 This would include the use of a lost or stolen identification by an individual posing as the owner. This is the simplest means of obtaining false identification. The presenter borrows a driver’s license or state identification card from a friend or relative and attempts to pass themselves off as that individual.


This involves any identification document which has been altered or changed to show a different photograph, date of birth or other identifying characteristic. It may be something as simple as changing the birth year with a felt tip pen, to changing the height, weight and other characteristics with a typewriter, rub on letters or computer printer. Photos may be added by carefully splitting the lamination of a driver’s license, inserting the photo and gluing the lamination together. A driver’s license that is not laminated will have a new photo placed over the old one and lamination placed over the license.


Counterfeit identification is available through mail order, swap meets, or could be manufactured with a photocopier or by other means. It will be different from an authentic document. These are supposed to state “NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT” or “NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES” on the face of the document to indicate that these are not a government issued identification document.

Authentic-looking driver’s licenses without this information are available from several illegal sources. Be very suspicious any document which states:

  • “Official” or “Official Identification”
  • “Approved Identification”
  • “Personal Identification”

Any legitimate document will be approved and the word “official” or “approved” will not be on the document. All state and federal agencies have their names’ graphically printed. They are never typewritten.


This would involve the use of an authentic document with false information on the face. An individual could obtain a real document with fraudulent information or with false and/or counterfeit identification.

The law in Nevada is specific on the alteration of identification. If a minor uses false identification to purchase alcoholic beverages or to enter an establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold, they can be fined from $100 to $500 and be sentenced up to 6 months in jail.

Undercover “Sting” Operation

 Because of the large number of traffic accidents involving intoxicated minors, police departments have developed programs to stop the sale and service of alcohol to minors. One of these programs is the undercover or “sting” operation.

Local police will often send minors into businesses that have a liquor license to attempt to purchase alcohol. If the undercover minor is successful, both the employee and the business could face severe penalties.

Police departments throughout Nevada want businesses to know that these operations are conducted often and without notice. As a result, businesses are aware that the next person who attempts to purchase alcohol could very well be working for the police.

Washoe County

 The task force that is responsible for ensuring alcohol is not sold to minors in Washoe County is the regional Street Enforcement Team (SET).

The SET team is made up of detectives and officers from the Reno Police Department, the Sparks Police Department, The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and the University Of Nevada Police Department.

The SET team conducts hundreds of undercover operations each year by sending minors into bars, restaurants, and retail stores to attempt to purchase alcohol. During these operations, there are usually two undercover detectives that will witness the incident and, if necessary, issue a citation (notice to appear in court) to the employee and/or business.

When conducting the undercover operations, the SET team must follow certain guidelines:

  • The minor will not use a fake ID. The identification will be genuine and show the person is not yet 21 years of age.
  • The minor will not be wearing a wig, make-up, or any disguise in an attempt to make him or her look older.
  • The minor will not be playing Blackjack, Slot Machines or any other casino game while trying to order an alcoholic beverage.

If an employee sells or serves alcohol to the minor, they can be fired, receive a significant fine, and be sentenced to community service. In some cases, the business itself can also have its liquor license revoked.

When an employee has successfully refused alcohol service to the minor, the SET team is not required to inform the employee or business of the operation.

The goal of the SET team is not to find and punish people who sell alcohol to minors, but rather to ensure businesses that have received the privileged license to sell alcohol are in total compliance with the laws of Nevada, Washoe County, Reno, and Sparks.

Clark County

content The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (METRO) is responsible for conducting the undercover operations in Clark County. Officers from each area command center conduct thousands of operations each year under the designation MAPP: Minor Alcohol Prevention Program. The minors used in the operations are volunteers from METRO’s Young Adult Program.

Any business in Clark County that has a license to sell or serve alcohol can be tested by METRO to ensure employees are not selling or serving alcohol to minors. This includes bars, restaurants, casinos, grocery stores, and convenience stores. The task force also conducts operations to ensure businesses are not selling tobacco products to anyone less than 18 years of age. Tobacco Products include:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Chewing Tobacco
  • Rolling Papers

When conducting the undercover operations, the task force must follow certain guidelines:

  • The minor will not use a fake ID. The identification will be genuine and show the person is not yet 21 years of age.
  • The minor will not be wearing a wig, make-up, or any disguise in an attempt to make him or her look older.
  • The minor (if asked) is not allowed to lie about their age.

If an employee sells or serves alcohol to the minor, they can be fired, receive a fine up to $1,000, and be sentenced to up to 6 months in jail. In some cases, the business can also have its liquor license revoked.

When an employee refuses alcohol service (or tobacco sales) to the undercover minor, the witnessing officer will immediately inform the business that the employee successfully performed their responsibilities. Some businesses will award employees a cash bonus each time they pass the inspection.

Effects of alcohol on the human body

Nevada law requires that if you sell or serve alcohol, you should have a basic understanding of how alcohol affects the human body.

In this section we will discuss:

  • How alcohol is made
  • Alcohol strength
  • Factors that affect alcohol intoxication
  • Alcohol and drug interaction
  • Myths about alcohol

Understanding Alcohol
Alcohols are groups of compounds, many of which are ingredients in perfumes, extracts, paints and other products. Alcohols are also essential to many manufacturing processes.

The form of alcohol in the beverages we drink is ethyl alcohol (ethanol) a colorless liquid that in its pure, undiluted form has a biting or burning taste. It is produced by the fermentation of sugars that occurs naturally in cereals and fruits, such as barley and grapes.

Historically, alcohol has enjoyed the reputation as the “elixir of life.” Because of its many reported medicinal properties, alcohol was once thought to improve life, perhaps even prolong it. Over the years, however, virtually all of the magical claims have proved to be untrue.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, acting as a sedative or tranquilizer. It is also a consciousness-altering drug. Taken in large enough quantities, alcohol is a lethal poison. Technically, alcohol is also a food because it provides calories (slightly less than the number of calories per gram found in fat).

Unfortunately, millions of people use alcohol excessively. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, two-thirds of all Americans over the age of 14 use alcohol and approximately 10 million of them can be classified as alcoholics, and another 7 million are alcohol abusers. Equally tragic is the fact that no more than 15 percent of those people receive treatment for their condition.

Alcoholism has become a major social, economic, and public health problem. In the United States alone, the annual cost of lost productivity and health expenses related to alcoholism is estimated to be well over 100 billion dollars. Alcohol is involved in more than half of all accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides and nearly half of all traffic fatalities.

An additional expense is the cost of treating the approximately 1.5 million Americans who enter substance abuse centers each year. Indirect costs on alcohol include alcohol-related work accidents and days lost from work as a result of alcohol-related injuries or illness.

Alcoholic Beverages

Under Nevada State Law (NRS 202.015), alcoholic beverages are defined as:
Beer, ale, porter, stout and other similar fermented beverages, including sake and similar products, of any name or description containing one half of one percent or more alcohol by volume, brewed or produced from malt, wholly or in part, or for any substitute therefore.

Any beverage obtained by the fermentation of the natural content of fruits or other agricultural products containing sugar, of not less than one half of one percent alcohol by volume.

Any distilled spirits commonly referred to as ethyl alcohol, ethanol or spirits of wine in any form, including all dilutions and mixtures thereof from whatever process produced.

Clark County and Washoe County have similar definitions of what is considered an alcoholic beverage. If it can be consumed for beverage purposes and it has 0.5% or greater alcohol content by volume, it is an alcoholic beverage.

Brewed Beverages

Brewed beverages, such as beer and ale, are produced partially by fermentation.

The five steps in brewing beer:

  1. Malting of the grain to convert the starch into sugar.
  2. Fermentation of the sugar and its conversion into alcohol by the action of the yeast that has been added.
  3. The addition of hops for flavor.
  4. The stopping of fermentation when the concentration of alcohol reaches 3 to 6 percent.
  5. Clarifying and aging the beer.

In the production of brewed beverages, fermentation is not allowed to continue to completion. Therefore, considerable amounts of carbohydrates remain in the brewed beverages along with some of the soluble vitamins of the cereals. Also, a portion of the carbon dioxide remains in the solution to charge the fluid. The average alcohol content of American beers is 4 to 4.5 percent by volume or 3.2 or 3.5 percent by weight.


Wines are produced by a process of fermentation (chemical breakdown). The alcohol content of wine is limited to the amount of available sugar in the fruit or substance in the material with which the yeast reacts.

The alcohol content of ordinary wines in the United States varies from 10 to 16 percent. The maximum amount of alcohol that can be produced by fermentation is approximately 14 to 16 percent. However, some wines may have a higher alcohol content. These are called “Fortified Wines.”

Distilled Spirits

Distilled spirits is alcohol of a high concentration containing little coloring and flavoring matter; it is comparatively free from the vegetable solids present in the original mash from which it was distilled. A fermented juice or cereal is boiled, and the alcohol passes off as a vapor along with water and other volatile substances.

Alcohol Strength

The strength of alcohol is measured in terms of “proof.” The percentage of alcohol in a beverage is one half of the beverage’s proof. For example, a 100-proof beverage contains 50 percent alcohol and an 80 proof beverage contains 40 percent alcohol.

In Nevada, it is against the law to sell a beverage that contains more than 80% alcohol or 160 proof. (NRS 202.065)

How Alcohol Works in the Body

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is a central nervous system depressant that relaxes you and reduces your inhibitions because it depresses the controlling centers of your brain. The more you drink, the more you are sedated. In sufficient amounts, alcohol can impair your speech and muscle coordination. Large quantities can produce sleep and in some cases life-threatening coma by severely depressing the vital centers of your brain.

The principle site for alcohol absorption in the body is the small intestine. Very small amounts are absorbed in the mouth and esophagus and only slightly more is absorbed in the stomach. The rate at which the alcohol is absorbed in the small intestine depends on several factors:

If your stomach is empty, most of the alcohol is usually quickly absorbed. Food in the stomach or small intestine, especially solid and fatty foods, slows the emptying of the stomach and therefore the absorption of alcohol.

Once the alcohol has been absorbed into the bloodstream, it is quickly transported throughout your body. In fact, the alcohol is moved to wherever there is water in your body, including inside individual cells. This distribution accounts for the intoxicating effects of the alcohol. In pregnant women, alcohol eventually reaches the fetus.

Nearly all of the alcohol is burned as fuel for your body, although small amounts are lost in your urine and from the lungs. It is the alcohol in the air we exhale that is measured in breath tests to determine the amount of alcohol in our bodies. The level of alcohol in each exhaled breath closely parallels the concentration of alcohol in the blood.

The only way to rid the body of the effects of alcohol is to allow the body’s natural processes to break it down and remove it from the body.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

When a person drinks an alcoholic beverage, some of the alcohol enters the bloodstream. The amount of alcohol in the bloodstream is the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). In Nevada, if a person has a BAC of 0.08 percent (8/100 of 1 percent), he or she is considered legally intoxicated. A BAC of 0.08 percent is equivalent to one drop of alcohol in 1250 drops of blood. While this may not seem like a lot, 4 drops of alcohol in 1250 drops of blood will usually cause death.

Factors that Affect Alcohol Intoxication

Intoxication is simply the effects of the alcohol as it is distributed throughout the body. Because alcohol has a small and relatively simple molecular structure, it passes through the cells easily and mixes with the water content of the body very quickly.

The brain, liver, heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, and every other organ and tissue system are infiltrated by alcohol within minutes after it enters the blood stream.

The effect of a given amount of alcohol on a particular person varies significantly because of several factors. These factors include:

  • Speed of ingestion
  • Volume ingested
  • Altitude
  • Condition of stomach and intestines
  • Diet
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Carbonation
  • Psychological condition
  • Alcohol tolerance
  • Coinciding medical conditions
  • Other drugs

Speed of Ingestion

In addition to the amount of alcohol ingested, the length of time over which consumption takes place is important. Sipping at the rate of one small drink per hour will usually allow the liver enough time to process the alcohol and prevent the level of alcohol in the blood from rising notably. One drink is considered:

  • One 12 ounce beer
  • Four ounces of wine
  • One ounce of 80 proof alcohol

On the average, unless consumption is limited to less than one full drink per hour, the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) will continue to rise. The body will slowly excrete the alcohol as follows:

Oxidation by the liver: 95%
Breath:            2%
Urine   2%
Perspiration    1%

Volume and Strength of Alcohol Ingested

The strength of the drink has a significant effect on absorption rates with higher concentrations of alcohol resulting in more rapid absorption. Pure alcohol is generally absorbed faster than diluted alcohols (such as 86 proof gins) which are, in turn, absorbed faster than wine or beer.

An unusual effect may occur, however, in certain drinkers. Alcohol taken in concentrated amounts can irritate the stomach lining to the extent that it produces a sticky mucous which delays absorption. Furthermore, the pyloric valve (connecting the stomach to the small intestine) may go into spasms in the presence of concentrated alcohol, trapping the alcohol in the stomach instead of passing it on to the small intestine where it would be more rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. As a result, the drinker who downs several straight shots of alcohol in an effort to get a quick high may actually experience a delayed effect.

Alcohol and Altitude
The effects of altitude are certainly well documented in aviation and mountain climbing. Higher altitude means rarefied air. Rarefied air means less oxygen for the brain which alcohol further diminishes. Alcohol has a greater effect on the human body at a higher altitude than on the ground.

Physical Condition of the Stomach and Intestines

Whether the linings of the stomach and intestines are healthy is a strong determinate in absorption rate, and therefore, intoxication rate. Also, individuals with pyloric valve spasms may suffer faster intoxication rates (if the valve “dumps” into the rapidly absorbing small intestine) or slower intoxication rates (if the person vomits or the valve holds the alcohol in the stomach).


Drinking on a full stomach tends to slow down absorption since it takes longer for the alcohol to reach the intestine. A “full” stomach will retard the absorption of alcohol but much less than is commonly believed.

The type of food in the stomach is also important. If the alcohol is soaked up with food, (especially fatty foods) it will not be absorbed as quickly.


Two people drinking the same amount over the same time can achieve different levels of Blood Alcohol Concentration. In general, the larger (and heavier) a person is, the greater the blood supply is and therefore, the more alcohol can be accommodated. (A larger blood supply will result in a lower concentration of alcohol due to the dilution factor).

In men and women of equal weight, fatty tissue is also a major determinant of BAC levels. The same is true for overweight people. Since their excess weight is stored in the form of fat, their blood supply is not increased in proportion to the additional weight. Alcohol is not soluble in fat and therefore, results in a higher concentration. Therefore, a fat person of 170 pounds will have a higher BAC from the same amount of alcohol than a lean person of the same weight.


If a man and a woman of the same height and weight begin drinking the same amount of alcohol, the woman will generally absorb up to 30% more alcohol into her bloodstream. Women have a higher percentage of body fat which does not absorb alcohol, and a higher percentage of water, which does. Therefore, there is a greater concentration of alcohol in the woman’s body. Men also have a higher amount of an enzyme in their stomachs that helps break down the alcohol before it enters the small intestine and bloodstream.

Carbonation, either natural (as in Champagne) or added (as in a Scotch and Soda), speeds up the absorption rate by relaxing the stomach’s pyloric valve and therefore allowing material to move into the small intestine faster. The tiny bubbles speed the alcohol into the intestine and therefore materials reach an area of faster absorption rates quicker because more alcohol is entering the blood stream.

Therefore, drinks with carbonation such as Champagne, beer, and carbonated mixers such as Coca-Cola and 7-Up rush through the stomach and intestinal walls and into the blood stream (carrying the alcohol along with it) and creating a rapid rise in the BAC.

Psychological Condition

Anxiety and depression are two major factors which can significantly affect the rate at which intoxication progresses. If an individual is already depressed, anxious, nervous, frightened, or simply unhappy, a single or double drink may have a chemical and physiological effect on the person as if he or she had three or four drinks. The state of prior depression is merely a multiplier of the depressing action of alcohol.

Alcohol Tolerance

An individual with a steady pattern of routine drinking will develop a certain level of tolerance to alcohol. This is not to be misunderstood that the person is immune to intoxication or that the person’s BAC level will not increase as fast. Instead, (with all other factors equal), an inexperienced drinker will probably feel the effects of alcohol faster than an experienced, steady drinker. A higher level of alcohol tolerance has no effect on a person’s BAC level.

Coinciding Medical Factors

Whenever a person who is not in the best of health consumes alcohol, he or she is risking complicating interacting factors with alcohol. Ailments as simple as the common cold can magnify the effects of alcohol and cause a person to become intoxicated faster. Drinking and Diabetes can sometimes be a deadly combination. Consuming alcohol during pregnancy is responsible for the birth defect called “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome”.

Alcohol and Other Drugs

It is no longer clinically desirable to discuss the drug alcohol without including its interactions with other drugs. The abuse of multiple drugs with alcohol is common. Alcohol remains the basic substance upon which a variety of other drugs is overlaid. Also, the pharmacology of alcohol is such that it is affected by (and affects) the actions of many classes of drugs. Alcohol in combination with other drugs can be deadly.

The abuse of all mind altering substances has certain common patterns including intoxication, overdose, withdrawal effects, tissue damage and so forth. It is important for us to examine some of the interrelationships between alcohol and other drugs.

Now that alcohol containing beverages have become basic mood-altering substances upon which a variety of other drugs are overlaid, some consideration should be given to the implications and impacts of such multiple drug use.

When individuals take combinations of drugs, it is usually because of one of four basic reasons:

Intensification: Additional drugs are used to intensify the effect of the primary substance.

Side Effect Reduction: Multiple drugs may be used to reduce the undesirable side effects of the primary agent.

Substitution: One or more drugs may be used as a substitute for the preferred drug when it is in short supply or not available.

Collection: In some instances, a combination of chemicals is taken together without particular interest as to how they will interact.

The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol

Brain and Nervous System
Excessive drinking of alcohol can produce several harmful effects on the brain and the nervous system. Alcohol can cause temporary memory loss (blackout). It is not uncommon for heavy drinkers, and many first-time drinkers as well, to forget all or part of what occurred during the time they were drinking. Some heavy drinkers can have problems with their short term memory that may persist for several weeks after stopping drinking. However, the memory is usually restored with abstinence.

Excessive alcohol use can cause insomnia and also can leave the user tired and exhausted in the morning, even after a full night’s sleep. Guided by the activity of the brain, we move from light or moderate sleep to intervals of dreaming sleep. These dreaming periods are called rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, and our physical and mental health is dependent on them. Unfortunately, the anesthetic effect of alcohol interferes with the brain’s ability to produce an adequate amount of REM sleep, which partially accounts for the morning fatigue many heavy drinkers experience.

The sequence in which alcohol affects the brain functions are as follows:

    Relaxed Inhibitions
    Slowed Reaction Time
    Loss of Coordination
    Impaired Vision
    Slurred Speech
    Loss of Balance (difficulty walking or standing)
    Loss of Consciousness
    Loss of Breathing
    Loss of Life due to Respiratory Paralysis

Gastrointestinal System

Alcohol can irritate the mucous lining of the stomach and produce gastritis. This also may cause vomiting, which, in turn can cause small tears in the upper stomach and lower esophagus. These tears called Mallory-Weiss tears, can bleed. Persistent drinking can interfere with some of the B vitamins, particularly folic acid and thiamin, and other nutrients. Most of these problems will disappear if drinking stops. However, problems such as fatty or enlarged liver and alcohol-induced hepatitis may require immediate medical attention. The damage caused by cirrhosis of the liver tends to be progressive.

As the circulating alcohol moves through the liver, it is broken down (metabolized) by enzymes. A healthy liver can process alcohol at a rate of about 50 calories per hour. This is equivalent to about one ounce of 80 proof whiskey per hour. If the liver becomes overwhelmed by large amounts of alcohol, the alcohol will circulate in the body until it can be processed by the liver.

The cause of the common hangover (typically, the symptoms include headaches and dry mouth) is not entirely clear. One possibility is that alcohol is a diuretic, causing loss of water through the urine. This can lead to dehydration. The treatment for hangover symptoms is rest, plenty of liquids, and aspirin or other simple analgesics.

Cardiovascular System

A drink of alcohol may temporarily reduce blood pressure but, taken regularly, alcoholic beverages can elevate blood pressure.

Chronic heavy drinkers frequently develop a condition called cardiomyopathy, a disease that destroys the heart muscle and produces symptoms that range from arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) to heart failure. In some people, a daily practice of only moderate alcohol intake may increase the possibility of heart disease.

Myths About Alcohol #1

“A Drink Can Warm You UP”

Alcohol dilates the blood vessels. As a result, alcohol may give the sensation of temporary warmth by sending more blood rushing to the skin’s surface. The increased blood flow to the capillaries draws blood from vital inner organs and brings heat nearer the surface of the body, where it is lost through the skin; thus, the temperature of the body is lowered. Consequently, the risk of serious or even fatal low temperature (hypothermia) is increased if alcohol is consumed. For example, if you fall into cold water or are exposed to cold temperatures after ingesting a quantity of alcohol hypothermia becomes a greater possibility.

Myths About Alcohol #2
“Alcohol Is A Stimulant”

The initial reaction to alcohol may be stimulating in some people because of two effects:

  • A momentary increase in the rate of breathing.
  • A quickening of the heart rate.

However, sedative effects occur as drinking continues.

Alcohol is a depressant, or sedative…not a stimulant.

Myths About Alcohol #3
“Strong Black Coffee Can Help You Sober Up

Black coffee contains the stimulant caffeine, which counter act with the depressant effect of alcohol. If someone is intoxicated, or otherwise physically affected by alcohol consumption, caffeine may improve the level of awareness or reduce feelings of sluggishness.

Coffee can neither increase the rate at which alcohol is processed by the liver nor change the blood alcohol levels. Unfortunately, the initial lift that coffee provides may lead a person to believe that they are reasonably alert and sober when, in fact, they are not.

Myths About Alcohol #4
 “Alcohol Has Relatively Few Calories”

The amount of calories contributed by the alcohol portion of various forms of alcohol drinks can be calculated by the following formula:

Number of ounces X proof X 0.8 = total calories

For example, a 2oz drink of 80 proof gin = 2 X 80 X 0.8 = 128 calories

Because dry wines and distilled liquors contain essentially no calories beyond those found in the alcohol, this formula can reveal the calorie content with good accuracy. In sweet wines, sugar contributes additional calories; likewise, the carbohydrates in beer may furnish perhaps a fourth or half again as many calories as the alcohol itself. “Light” beers have smaller amounts of carbohydrates and often lesser amounts of alcohol.

Myths About Alcohol #5
“Food Will Help You Sober Up”

Eating food before you drink is a good idea because it may help slow the initial absorption rate. However, once you’re drunk, the only thing that will remove the alcohol from your body is time. Your liver must have the time to remove the alcohol from your system. Eating food will not cause your liver to work faster.

The only positive thing about giving food to an intoxicated person is that it will put something else in their hands other than a drink.

Identifying intoxicated guests and preventing alcohol service

Most people are responsible drinkers. They know their limitations and know when to slow down or stop drinking. However, some people do not. It is your responsibility to evaluate customers and guests in order to decide if you are going to sell, serve, or discontinue alcohol service.

Excessive drinking can cause behavior changes. Unfortunately, some people who drink alcohol become overly aggressive. This is often called “Liquid Courage”. You have the obligation to recognize this type of hostile behavior and try to prevent it from escalating into a fight.

In this section, we will explain:

  • ways to identify intoxicated persons
  • the importance if communication
  • the “Traffic Light Rating System”
  • tipping and alcohol service
  • stopping alcohol service

Identifying Intoxicated Guests

Liquor service employees should remember that sometimes unusual behavior, such as clumsiness and slurred speech, is not always a result of alcohol consumption. For example, stroke victims often have difficulty speaking and walking. The only way to tell if a person is legally intoxicated is by taking a blood or breath test. However, you must use common sense. If a customer is staggering into a bar and his breath smells like alcohol, it’s probably a good assumption that alcohol is the cause.

Some guests may have a high tolerance to alcohol and may not show signs of intoxication, even though they are legally intoxicated. This is why it is very important to try to remember how many drinks you’ve served and over what length of time.

Obviously, you cannot perform breath or blood tests before serving or selling alcohol. Therefore, you must use your experience, training, and best judgment to make the important decision as to whether or not you are going to serve someone alcohol.

Retail cashiers may find it extremely difficult to recognize an intoxicated person because they have very little time evaluate the condition of the guest. Cocktail servers, bartenders, and food servers spend more time with customers and know how many drinks they’ve served. Retail cashiers do not have this advantage. When a customer in a grocery or convenience store is buying alcohol, the casher has just a few seconds to decide if the person is drunk or sober. If you are a retail cashier and you have any doubts about a person’s state of intoxication, it’s best to error on the side of safety and deny the sale of alcohol.

Guests can show different signs of intoxication that let you know they’ve had too much to drink. The four general types of behavioral changes associated with alcohol intoxication are:

  • Relaxed Inhibitions
  • Impaired Judgment
  • Slowed Reaction Times
  • Decreased Coordination

Relaxed Inhibitions

Drinkers can begin to lose their inhibitions even with small amounts of alcohol. These behavior changes will increase with the amount of alcohol consumed. Some of these changes may include:

  • Personality changes, such as quiet guests becoming overly friendly or a normally outspoken guest becoming quiet and withdrawn.
  • Anti-social behavior, such as leaving friends and drinking alone.
  • Emotional outbursts.
  • Noisy or rowdy behavior, such as speaking loudly or “showing off”.
  • Obnoxious behavior, such as suddenly using foul language or making rude comments.

Signs of Impaired Judgment

Alcohol can make people say and do things they normally would not do like jumping on a table and dancing while trying to sing the words to “Louie Louie” at a karaoke bar.

Other signs of impaired judgment are:

  • Complaining about drink strength, drink preparation, or price after consuming one or more of the same type of drink without complaining.
  • Drinking faster or ordering shots or doubles.
  • Being careless with money by leaving it unattended or offering to buy drinks for strangers or employees.
  • Saying things that don’t make sense.
  • Starting arguments or fights.

Slowed Reaction Time

Slowed reactions are an indication that a person’s brain functions have been affected. People with slowed reactions sometimes forget what they were trying to say, misplace their car keys, or possibly ordering a drink when they already have one.

Other examples are:

  • Glassy, unfocused eyes; dilated pupils.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Altered speech patterns, such as slurred speech.
  • Difficulty using a cell phone.

Decreased Coordination

The most obvious signs of a loss of coordination are when a guest stumbles, staggers, bumps into people, or needs to lean on things to avoid falling down. Other examples are:

  • Difficulty handling coins or taking money from a wallet or purse.
  • Difficulty handling utensils when trying to eat.
  • Difficulty lighting a cigarette.
  • Falling asleep.


If you sell or serve alcohol, one of your biggest responsibilities is to convey information to your co-workers regarding the alcohol service to guests. Whether your shift is over, or you’re just taking a break, you need to take a few minutes and pass on specific information to the person relieving you. This information should include:

  • How many drinks each person has had.
  • The type of drink (beer, wine, hard liquor).
  • If the person is showing any signs of intoxication (behavior changes).

If you work in a large area such as a casino, nightclub, or a large bar, it may be difficult or impossible to remember the number and type of drinks you’ve given to each person. If this is the case, you should concentrate on the guests that have received the most alcohol and try your best to pass on the information as accurately as you can. 

The Traffic Light System

The traffic light system is a simple way to help you communicate to managers and other employees the effects of alcohol on guests. The traffic light system is an easy-to-use method of recognizing and rating guests’ levels of intoxication. The system is based on the colors of a traffic light:

Guests in the Green

Guests who are sober are in the green. Typically, they behave appropriately for the situation by showing signs of good judgment and coordination.

Guests in the Yellow

Guests who have begun to feel the effects of alcohol are in the early stages of yellow. Generally, they are still alert and able to concentrate, but they may show signs of relaxed inhibitions. For example, a quiet guest may become overly friendly. Alcohol service to the guest should be diluted or slowed down.

Guests in the advanced stages of yellow are intoxicated. They may show signs of impaired judgment such as saying things that don’t make sense or starting arguments or fights. Their reaction times may also be slow: they may be drowsy or slur their words when they speak.

Guests in the Red

Guests who are extremely intoxicated are in the red. Typically, they show signs of decreased coordination. They may have difficulty handling coins; they may lose their balance, stagger, or bump into things; and they may even fall asleep.

Tipping and Alcohol Service

We all know that some cocktail servers and bartenders will provide better and faster service to the guest that gives a big tip.

This can cause several problems:

  • Faster service means more drinks and therefore, the guest becomes intoxicated sooner.
  • Bartenders may pour a stronger than normal drink to a person that gives a big tip.
  • Other guests see this and question why they don’t receive the same service.
  • Cocktail servers and bartenders may disregard the person’s state of intoxication and continue service when the customer should be “cut-off”.

Stopping Alcohol Service

The best service you can provide to a good tipping customer is doing your job responsibly. By doing this you may be protecting the guest from the adverse effects of excessive drinking.

It’s never easy to tell guests that you’re going to cut them off. Essentially you’re telling the guest that you’ve decided to make this decision for them. If you do it with diplomacy and discretion, the guest is less likely to argue and complain. Most people, regardless of their level of intoxication, will have a better response to a polite and pleasant request.

Many businesses including hotels and casinos have created internal policies for refusing alcohol service to guests. For example, some casinos require that only managers are authorized to decline alcohol service. This is because an intoxicated guest is more likely to accept the decision of an executive than that of a line employee. You should know and follow the guidelines that your employer has established.

When refusing alcohol service, every situation is different. Over time and with experience you will become more adept at evaluating each circumstance and responding accordingly.

The following are some guidelines and suggestions to help make your job easier when you tell a guest you can no longer serve them alcohol:

  • Avoid using negative terms like “you’re drunk” or “you’ve had too much”.
  • Show the customer that you are genuinely concerned about their well being.
  • Never raise your voice, insult, or embarrass the customer.
  • If necessary, explain to the customer that you are obligated by law to decline alcohol service.
  • Be firm. Once you’ve made your decision, don’t let the customer change your mind.

    Intervention and Fight Prevention

As a liquor service employee, you have the responsibility to become involved with guests who have become intoxicated. Intoxicated guests require your assistance but will seldom ask for it. Therefore, it is up to you to focus your attention on the situation and react accordingly. The decisions you make could help avoid property damage and prevent guests and employees from becoming hurt in volatile situations.

In this section we will discuss:

  • The meaning of intervention.
  • How and when employees should intervene.
  • How to defuse volatile situations.
  • What to do if a fight occurs.

When a guest has become intoxicated, it is very important to handle the situation with speed and professionalism. All situations are different because people react differently to the effects of alcohol.

Intervention is what servers, bartenders, casino employees, and managers do to influence guests’ attitudes and behaviors when they drink alcohol. Intervention techniques can help discourage guests from drinking too much and can help manage guests who, despite everyone’s efforts, become intoxicated.


Intervention is a team effort. To be an important team member you should:

  • Talk with guests.
  • Pay attention to guests’ attitudes and behaviors.

This will make guests feel welcome, and you may discover who might be more likely than others to become intoxicated.

How to Intervene

You can help control alcohol risks more effectively by following four basic steps:

  1. Observe
  2. Communicate
  3. Assist
  4. Report

Step 1: Observe

Employees such as valet parking attendants, bellmen, guest service representatives, front desk employees, security officers and others may be in a position to observe guests as they come and go.

Talking With Guests –

Guests can alert you to potential problems in many ways. When talking to a guest, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the guest appear stressed, depressed, or tired?
  • Has the guest been drinking or is the guest determined to get drunk?
  • Is the guest taking other drugs? Does the guest have a cold or other ailment for which he or she may be taking medication?

Alcohol may affect guests in any of these situations more quickly or severely than it affects other guests.

Looking For Clues –

Guests may also show you they are intoxicated. For example:

  • Guests may drive poorly when they drive into the property.
  • Guests may stumble or stagger when entering or leaving the property.
  • Guests may slur their words when speaking.
  • Guests may lean against the wall, furniture, or other people for support.

Front line employees are the eyes and ears of any company. If you see anything that could be potentially dangerous, it is your responsibility to take the next step:

Step 2: Communicate

If you observe guests who are intoxicated or who are likely to become intoxicated, you need to take the next step: communicate. Tell a manager, supervisor, security officer or other appropriate person what you’ve noticed.

If a guest tells you that he or she has been drinking before coming to your establishment, you should tell a supervisor, manager, or employee in the area where the guest is headed.

Valet parking attendants should inform managers and/or security if they feel an arriving guest has been drinking.

Notifying staff members will help them deal more effectively with intoxicated guests.

Observing and communicating will usually be the extent of your involvement with guests who appear intoxicated. However, if you feel an intoxicated guest may present a threat to themselves, others or may damage property, you should proceed to the next step:

Step 3: Assist

In some situations, you may be working alone or there may not be time to contact another person to handle an intoxicated guest. For example, if a guest poses an immediate threat to themselves or others, you may need to take action right away.

When a Guest is Extremely Intoxicated take the situation seriously. Alert a supervisor, manager, security officer or other appropriate person immediately. If you are working alone, follow your departmental procedures for handling the guest.

Procedures may include:

  • Talk to the guest away from others to avoid embarrassing them.
  • Never touch the guest unless given permission by the guest.
  • Do not judge the guest.
  • Never make accusations or argue with the guest.
  • If possible, encourage the guest to get something to eat before leaving the property.
  • Ensure the guest will be safe when he or she leaves by calling a taxi or making sure someone in the guest’s party will drive.
  • Make sure the guest has all of his or her personal belongings when he or she leaves. Once you get an intoxicated guest home safely, you don’t want the person to come back for his or her jacket.

It is important to prevent a guest from driving under the influence, but it’s also important to keep guests from injuring themselves by slipping or falling.

Step 4: Report

The best way to protect yourself and your establishment is to write down the actions you took to handle a situation involving an intoxicated guest.

Some establishments use an incident report while others have employees write reports in a notebook. If you can show that you’ve handled intoxicated guests appropriately in the past, your history would indicate that you are experienced in dealing with such difficult situations.

If your safety or the safety of other customers is threatened by an intoxicated person, notify security or the police at once.

Defusing Volatile Situations

Each conflict needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. There are no magical formulas that can be used for each conflict that occurs.

Some guidelines however, are:

Be Assertive, Not Aggressive

Handle the customer in a firm, commanding, and straightforward voice that is not judgmental, parent-like or condescending.

Speak to the Problem, Not the Personality

Confine your comments to the situation…”The law forbids me from giving you any more cocktails at this time” rather than “You idiot, you should know better than to get so smashed!”

Show a Degree of Empathy, a Sense of Understanding

Let the customer know that you are sympathetic to their situation, but still maintain a firm control on the situation.

Back Up Your Actions With Facts, Strength, and Conviction

Let the customer know that you are merely following the rules of the establishment and the law. It is your job to uphold these rules and laws.

Meet Action With Appropriate Reactions

Try to keep the conflict from escalating to the point where outside law enforcement intervention is necessary. Meet the customer’s action with an appropriate reaction.


When a fight happens in an establishment where alcohol is served, there is a very good chance that at least one of the participants is intoxicated. Fights are difficult to predict and control, therefore the best procedure is to stop them before they start.

  • Follow the traffic light rating system, and slow down or deny alcohol service as needed.
  • Notice the signs that trouble might be brewing and take immediate action to prevent it.
  • Loud arguments usually proceed physical fighting. Intervening at the argument stage is essential. Never suggest they “take it outside”.

If a fight does break out, follow these procedures:

  • Call security or the police immediately.
  • If the fight is close to other customers, move the customers out of the way.
  • Never ask a customer to help break up a fight. (If the customer becomes injured, the establishment becomes liable.)
  • Do not take sides in a fight.
  • Avoid personal contact with the combatants. (This could pull you into the fight.)
  • If a weapon appears, get out of the way and get customers out of the way.

Reporting Fights

One of the most important things to do after a fight is to document as much information as possible.

Many businesses including casinos have surveillance equipment that is very helpful in documenting incidents. However, surveillance cameras do not record sound. When writing a report, try to make a note of the conversations including foul or aggressive language.

When writing a report, include:

  • All events leading up to the fight.
  • The state of intoxication of the combatants.
  • Witnesses names.