Study: States Rarely Enforce Laws on Sales to Drunk Patrons

Most states have laws that prohibit bars and liquor stores from selling alcohol to individuals who are obviously drunk, but the laws are rarely enforced by police and are generally ignored by bar and liquor-store owners, Health Day News reported May 13.

For a new study, actors portraying intoxicated patrons were sent into 372 bars and liquor stores in 11 communities to try to buy alcohol. According to the research, 79 percent of the establishments sold alcohol to the actors.

Lead researcher Dr. Traci Toomey, an associate professor of epidemiology from the University of Minnesota, said the study suggested that many servers and clerks were ignorant of the law. “That should be a key part of server-training programs,” she said.

Others who were aware of the law, said Toomey, did not have the skills to handle the customer. “They don’t want to have a hostile drunk person to deal with,” she said.

Toomey and her research team recommended aggressive training programs for servers and management. “This is a risky type of alcohol service,” Toomey said. “We need to figure out ways to pay more attention to it, and either work with establishments or find ways to put pressure on these establishments to make sure that they comply with the law.”

The study’s findings are published in the May 2004 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.