Dealing with Unruly Patrons

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Bartending Tips: How to Deal with Unruly Patrons

Bartending is exciting work. If you’re naturally energetic and social, it’s a fast-paced job that will keep you on your toes and give you the opportunity to meet a wide range of interesting people. However, for every friendly client you get, there will always be the odd one out. This type of client is difficult, rude – and inclined to get drunk more often than not. In fact, the combination of alcohol and rowdy people is an explosive cocktail at best – pun intended.

As a legal RSA-qualified bartender, it is your job to ensure that your patrons drink in an environment that is fun and safe. It’s your responsibility to identify problematic drinkers on the premises of bar, and deal with them appropriately. This is a nuanced procedure that requires a lot of calmness and assertiveness on your part. It can, however, help prevent a wide range of alcohol-induced incidents, like brawling, harassment and even drunk driving.

Watch Out for the Signs

Keep your eyes peeled for signs of visible intoxication. Remember that you reserve the right to refuse service to anyone displaying any of these tell-tale characteristics: slurring, staggered movement, the overspending of money and boisterous, loud behaviour. Heavily intoxicated drinkers also tend to display extreme shifts in mood and disposition. They tend to be overtly angry or emotional. If you see anyone spilling drinks, falling over or looking for a fight, then it’s your job to cut them off.

How to Say “Enough is Enough?”

The trick is to be polite and non-judgemental. Any condescending behaviour on your part could make the situation worse, as drunken patrons tend to be aggressively defensive of their actions. Be calm and communicate clearly. An effective argument to use is reference of the law. Tell him/her it’s illegal for you serve them further due to RSA laws. Another soft approach is to deflect the blame to your boss or manager. Say manager has ordered you to stop serving them drinks – and offer a bottle of water on the house.

If those soft tactics don’t work, it’s time to get assertive. Warn the client that any refusal to comply with the bar’s RSA legislation will result in being asked to leave. Dealing with clients in this manner can be intimidating – the key approach is to stick to your guns in a calm, but insistent manner.

What About Drunk Drivers?

Unfortunately, you are also responsible for the prevention of drunk driving. If someone at your establishment gets behind the wheel of a car and causes an accident, the accountability rests with you. But how to stop someone who is absolutely determined to drive?

The initial approach is to ask the client for his/her car keys and call for a cab on their behalf. If this doesn’t work, and the client managers to get into a car and drive off, it’s your job to write down the licence number of the vehicle and call the police. That way, you’ve taken some kind of action to prevent a drunk-driving incident, even though the driver got away with the keys.

By sticking to these strategies, you’ll create a safe and happy drinking environment in your bar. Remember to be calm, polite and assertive. This way, you’ll keep binge drinkers off the swill – and drunk drivers off the road.