This is something that happened to me several months ago, and it was one of the scariest times of my life. I think it’s safe to say that bartending, overall, is viewed as a “fun” job. Don’t get me wrong, I often do have a lot of fun, but there’s another side that needs to be told.
It all began with a phone call. One of my co-workers called me from the bar and said that a police officer was there asking for me. The officer got on the phone and said he had a few questions to ask me. About twenty minutes later, he showed up at my home with a photo of a man asking me if I recognized him. I told him that the guy looked somewhat familiar, but that I deal with hundreds of people a week and I couldn’t give him anything more than that. The officer was very vague as to why I was being questioned. When he left my house, I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, I just knew that it wasn’t good.
The next day a woman showed up at the bar claiming her brother was dead. It turns out that a patron, who had visited my bar that particular evening, had crashed his car later on that same night and died. As a result, I was under investigation for over-serving. I was mortified.
After speaking to a lawyer friend, I found out just how bad this could get. I could be facing some pretty heavy charges like criminal negligence, or even involuntary manslaughter. As if that wasn’t enough, this could lead to the closure of the bar. The criminal charges took a back burner when I realized that the family I worked for could lose their livelihood of over 35 years and this landmark could be gone because of my doing. I kept hoping I’d wake up and this fucking nightmare would be over.
How did this all end? Video cameras, thank God for those cameras! Along with the owner, the police officer in charge of the case sat and watched hours of video. Yes, I did serve this guy. He came in around 9 p.m., ordered a shot of Jack Daniels and an Amstel Light, drank both the shot and beer and then left. His accident occurred just before 2 a.m. — hours after he left my bar.
Needless to say, I knew who he was. After I found out what he had ordered, that picture the officer had shown me became more than just another customer. He’d even joined in with a group of my friends the previous week, and a good time was had by all.
Let me just finish with this: There are so many laws that we have to abide by every night we step behind the bar. You wouldn’t believe some of these laws, but it’s the reality we face every day. Just keep in mind that when a bartender cuts you off, not only are we following the law, we may even be saving your life.