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How Is Drink Size Used as Evidence in Texas Dram Shop Lawsuits?

  • Last Updated: March 3rd, 2023
  • By: Mike Grossman
  • Dram Shop

How dram shop attorneys use drink size as evidence in lawsuits against negligent bars and restaurants

Safe alcohol service revolves around standard pour sizes. All Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) safe-service procedures assume that bars are using standard pours. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) chart that is put out by the TABC uses the number of drinks consumed to estimate a person's level of intoxication. It is one of the tools that is taught to servers in TABC certification classes to ensure safe alcohol service.

So if the BAC chart is an important tool for safe alcohol service and it is based upon standard pour sizes, what happens when bars ignore standard pour sizes? All too often, the answer is that both the drinking patron and the bar service staff cannot properly determine the patron's level of intoxication. This behavior becomes particularly dangerous when the patron leaves and gets behind the wheel.

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Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, victims who have been injured when a bar unlawfully serves an obviously intoxicated person have the right to pursue the bar for compensation for injuries that result from such service.

Learn more about the importance of standard pours and how they related to Texas dram shop cases with one of Dallas' most experienced dram shop attorneys, Michael Grossman.


Questions Answered on This Page:

  • How does the size/strength of the drink impact a dram shop case?
  • How can you prove that a bar served a strong drink?
  • How are drinks normally served at a bar?

How are "drinks" supposed to be measured out?

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), the relevant state agency in charge of these matters, defines one drink as the following:

  • 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor (40% alcohol)
  • 12 oz. of standard beer (4.5%)
  • 5 oz. of standard wine (12%)

This is vitally important because all the science that servers are (supposed to be) taught about how much is too much is based on this measurement. Anything over that can easily undermine any efforts to monitor how much alcohol patrons are truly drinking. For instance, many common drinks contain far more alcohol than a standard pour. Common bar over-pours include:

Over-sized 8 oz. pours are the standard pour in most establishments that serve wine. This amount is almost twice what the BAC chart recognizes as a drink. Very few servers are going to remember to double count each glass of wine to make up for the larger pour size. As a result, people who would otherwise drink responsibly are consuming far more alcohol than they think they are.

Everyone loves a martini. What few people realize is that the standard martini pour is 3 oz. While servers and patrons may count each martini as a single drink, for BAC purpose, they're two drinks for the price of one. Of course, that is only standard martinis. Many establishments these days server "over-sized" 4.5-6 oz martinis.

How bars screw this up, cause alcohol-related accidents, and open themselves up to dram shop liability.

The following are just a handful of real-world examples from cases we've litigated where we've found bars purposefully, or perhaps inadvertently, serving "drinks" with way more alcohol than should be allowed:

Glasses that are too large. One guaranteed way of giving someone too much alcohol in one drink is to serve large glasses filled to the brim. There are plenty of even "family-themed" restaurants that serve beer in 24 or even 36 ounce glasses. We've seen beer served in glasses the size of "Big Gulps" that were the equivalent of 4 drinks.

Pitchers of beer. A standard pitcher contains about 60 ounces of beer. That's five drinks. That's fine, of course, spread evenly over five adults, but the problems come when one person hogs the whole thing.

"Keg nights." Bars, especially in college towns, will sometimes charge an entrance fee for patrons to come in and drink from a keg. No one is there to monitor this self-service, and patrons can easily become totally intoxicated in under an hour.

Selling entire bottles of liquor. Some restaurants, bars, and ESPECIALLY strip clubs will sell an entire bottle to a customer or two of 80-proof liquor. Unless a waiter stands by and dispenses the liquor themselves, then a patron can become intoxicated to the point of danger in no time.

Free-pouring vs. jiggers. Responsible bars have devices (called "jiggers") on the top of each liquor bottle to automatically measure out 1.5 ounce pours. Many bartenders don't like these devices because they slow down the drink-making process, and many bar owners consider them unsightly. As a result, many bars allow their bartenders to simply pour alcohol into the glass and hope they get it right.

Buckets of beer. Many bars run drink specials where they sell five or six beers in a bucket at a slightly-reduced price. These specials are often run concurrent with a big game or boxing match. Like pitchers, the bar has no way of monitoring who drinks what.

Intentionally making drinks stronger. In the hopes of giving patrons a good time, many bar owners instruct their bartenders to use a "heavy hand" in making mixed drinks to make them stronger. Further, more upscale bars and restaurants don't want to appear skimpy with liquor, so they likewise pour stiffer drinks to win customers.

We'd like to specifically highlight the final example. When customers order a "drink," they're reasonably entitled to think it's not the equivalent of three. For most adult males, for instance, a couple of liquor drinks in an hour or so isn't going to make them intoxicated. However, 6 almost always will. Bars get even basically responsible drinkers in unwarranted trouble by serving them incredibly potent beverages that the patron might have no idea were so strong.Further, inexperienced drinkers are often placed in harm's way because they plainly had no idea that a "drink" had over four ounces of alcohol in it.

Give experienced Texas dram shop attorney Michael Grossman a call.

As dram shop attorneys, we spend our time pursuing negligent bars and restaurants for compensation for our injured clients. A key way of proving that the bar should be financially liable is by discovering that it engaged in the above practices, which helped cause the accident. We also seek agreements from the bars that they will reform their practices to prevent accidents from happening again.

If you or a loved one has been in an alcohol-related accident, call the dram shop lawyers at (855) 326-0000 now.

Other articles about Texas dram shop cases that may be helpful:

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