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If you work in a place that serves alcohol, it’s going to happen – you’re going to have to cut someone off. When it’s a stranger, it’s one thing, but when it’s a regular it can be another. Regulars might be friendly and fun, but things can change quickly if the situation isn’t managed properly.

Here are a few ideas on how to cut off a regular.

Be aware
Try and stay ahead of the situation. If you know someone has had more drinks than usual, make sure to check in with them. Make it friendly and casual and ask “How’re you doing over here?” Try to make eye contact and get a read of where things are going. Since this is a regular you have an advantage: Are they acting different than usual?

Give them a heads up
Before cutting them off, it’s more than fair to let them know you’re becoming concerned. Use your instincts and ask a question that leads back to their state of inebriation. “Are you driving tonight?” is pretty direct. If you want to soft-sell it a bit try asking something more general, “What are you up to tonight?”

The cut-off
You’ve seen something, you’ve said something, and now it’s time to do something. It’s important to be as direct as possible. The message you want to relay is ‘No more for you – no negotiation. But you can have anything non-alcoholic and you don’t have to leave.’ The most important thing at this point is to make sure they don’t drive. If they are with people you can make them aware of the situation. If they are alone be prepared for the next step.

Organize a graceful exit
Odds are they won’t want to stay. Sitting at the bar both drunk and drinkless is no one’s idea of a fun night. As a bartender or server you should have either the number of a local taxi company or Uber/Lyft at your disposal. (If you don’t have either of these, stop reading now and get those contacts/apps.) When it’s time to leave let your regular know you’ve arranged a car – if you can I’d recommend paying for it. After all a regular has likely already dropped enough money (and will likely spend more) so consider it the price of doing business.

Respect their privacy…
There’s no need to ever bring it up again. When your regular comes back (and if you treat them right they will) just greet them like nothing ever happened. They might bring it up, but it’s their choice – respect it.

But get it into the Bar Log
Real talk: You need to cover your ass – even if it’s a regular. If something goes wrong, like they ditch the ride and drive themselves home, you could still face some liability. You want to make sure you’ve logged everything that happened and have a manager (or at least another person) sign off on your account. The odds are it will never come up again, but if it does you’ll thank yourself for documenting the event.

Jack Hott

Jack Hott has more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry. Along the way he’s flipped burgers, tossed pizzas and spilled a lot of wine on white table cloths.

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