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How Novelty & Over-Sized Drinks Can Increase A Bar's Liability

Bars and restaurants know that they're not permitted to sell patrons alcohol when they're obviously intoxicated. Once an alcohol provider can tell that someone is dangerously drunk, they must refuse to serve them another drop. If they serve an obviously intoxicated patron, they do so in willful violation of the law, and can incur considerable liability in the process.

The way this normally plays out is that a bar or restaurant serves numerous individual drinks to a customer, and there is some definite point where they've gone a drink too far. However, when bars serve certain novelty drinks, they are often giving the patron enough alcohol in one container to get them not just buzzed, but dangerously drunk, by the time the customer has finished consuming it. While they're fairly commonplace everywhere from chain restaurants to your local upscale bar, these novelty drinks create significant liability risks for the establishments serving them.

This is because the main line of defense that a bar has against getting sued is not serving too much in the first place. When a bartender serves one drink at a time, they become the gatekeeper of intoxication. With each successive drink, they have the opportunity to evaluate whether or not it's safe for the customer to consume more alcohol. But by giving them certain types of high proof alcohol or the absurdly large quantities found in many novelty beverages, they effectively remove the judgment of the bartender or server from the equation. Naturally, this can lead to tragedy when over-served, intoxicated patrons decide to drive home and a collision results.

In this article, we discuss some of these drinks, how bars and restaurants promote them to the public, and why serving them puts not just the vendors, but innocent people at unnecessary risk.


Questions Answered On This Page:

  • How are novelty drinks different from normal alcoholic drinks?
  • Is it legal for bars to sell alcohol in large quantities?
  • If I was injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident, how can a lawyer help?

Novelty drinks can mean novel dangers

If a given patron has any familiarity with alcohol, they'll probably have at least a rough idea how much a standard beer, glass of wine, or serving of liquor contributes to their level of inebriation. For example, most men of normal size know they can have a couple of regular beers in an hour and a half or so and be fine. But with novelty drinks, they not only might be served too much alcohol, they might not even know that they're drinking too much.

Here are just some examples of the extreme alcohol serving sizes bars are serving to their customers that we've encountered in our years as Dram Shop lawyers:

  • The Fishbowl Full of Alcohol - A typical serving size of alcohol is 1.5 ounces should be consumed in about an hour. A novelty drink like the fish bowl can have over thirteen ounces of alcohol in it. One recipe for a Fish Bowl contains five ounces of vodka, five ounces of rum, and three ounces of Blue Curacao.
  • Everclear & Bacardi 151 - These types of liquors have dangerously-high percentages of alcohol content. Everclear is 190 proof, which means it is 95% pure alcohol and has a warning label not to drink it straight. Doing so could damage organs in the body. Bacardi 151 has 75% alcohol content and is similarly dangerous, and yet bars frequently sell novelty drinks containing large amounts of these extremely potent liquors.
  • "The Brewtus" - a twenty-three ounce beer which is available even at family-oriented restaurants like Applebee's.
  • Hurricanes - Originally crafted in New Orleans' Pat O'Brien's, these concoctions often have the equivalent of over 6 ounces of alcohol in them.
Novelty Drinks

These drinks, it should be noted, are almost never constrained by only one per customer rules. That means that far too often, patrons are supplied with many of these drinks within a few hours. That's a recipe for thorough intoxication.

Promotions and party games

Often it is not a specific drink that a drinking establishment sells, but rather promotions that they will push in order to increase sales, that create an unsafe atmosphere of excessive alcohol consumption. For example, many establishments offer a multi-shot sampler, where a waitress will come to patrons' table and offer them a large serving tray filled with a variety of "shooters," which are vials of hard liquor meant to be ingested in one gulp. This of course is meant as an appetizer to whatever drink you were going to order, increasing the amount of alcohol beyond what someone would have otherwise consumed.

We've had cases where bars used someone's birthday celebration as an excuse to sell copious amounts of alcohol to a young kid who has just turned twenty-one. They may sometimes offer a "special deal" of twenty-one drinks to celebrate turning 21. Depending on the height and weight of the people involved, this can lead to extreme drunkenness in a short period of time, and even death.

Another common event is the "Pub Crawl," where bars cross-promote by selling wrist bands and leading groups of people from one bar to another, encouraging them to purchase each bar's novelty drinks and increasing their respective sales figures. Some of the bars along the pub crawl will have open, self-serve beer kegs at their bar, inviting people to drink as much as they want, and even offering paraphernalia for risky game-style drinking, like beer pong cups and balls, beer bongs, and keg stands.

The novelty drinking glasses and the party games that alcohol vendors create, while they may increase sales, also increase the consumption of alcohol to dangerous levels. These patrons are over-served and then no attention is paid when that person stumbles out the door, fumbles with their car keys and drives away. This driver is now a danger to themselves, everyone else in their care, and every other driver on the roadway.

Don't stay a victim---be part of the solution.

If you don't fight back, bars will continue to skirt the rules and create unsafe drivers who will just go on hurting other people. Whatever cute names they label these drinks and promotions, they're dangerous and need to be stopped. If you've been hurt or lost a loved one in an accident with a drunken driver, call Grossman Law Offices' experienced dram shop attorneys at (855) 326-0000 to find out how we can hold the negligent bar accountable.


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