Introduction (copy)


Chapter One

1.1 Dept of Alcoholic Beverage Control

1.2 License Types

1.3 Liabilities

Chapter Two

2.1 Identifying Minors, Recognizing Tactics, & Understanding Decoys

2.2 T.R.A.C.E

2.3 Acceptable Forms of ID

2.4 Verification Technique

2.5 Consequences for Underage Sales

Chapter Three

3.1 Preventing Sales to Intoxicated Customers

3.2 Identifying Intoxicated Customers

3.3 Traffic Light System

3.4 Standard Serving Sizes

3.5 Alcohol – Physiologically

3.6 Contributing Factors & Pacing Alcohol Consumption

3.7 Drinking Drivers

3.8 Public Intoxication & Habitual Drunkards

Chapter Four

4.1 Refusing Service

4.2 Incident Logs

4.3 Reducing Liabilities

Project Safer Says Thanks to the Following:

This curriculum was made possible by the efforts and support of:

Ventura County Behavioral Health Department Alcohol & Drug Programs

Idea Engineering

Straight-up Ventura County

Winchester's Grill & Saloon

Our cast of community actors

Chapter 1 (copy)


Alcoholic Beverage Control

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is the liquor authority for the state of California. They receive liquor license applications within California and determine if a license will be granted. Selling alcohol in California is a privilege and not all applications are approved.

Some considerations for approval may include: total amount of alcohol licenses currently operating within a geographical area, and what type of business the licensee will operate as, (i.e., restaurant vs. bar).

The responsibility of ABC is to monitor alcohol licensees, investigate complaints, hold hearings regarding violations, and determine consequences for violations which may include fines, suspensions or revocations.

Alcoholic Beverage Control

Some cities have dedicated alcohol enforcement officers employed by police or sheriff departments. Working with the ABC or independently, alcohol enforcement officers ensure businesses are operating within the law in regards to alcohol sales and service.

In addition to alcohol enforcement officers, cities may have stricter alcohol regulations than the ABC imposes. “Conditional Use Permits” are imposed in some cities and may limit alcohol sales hours, or quantities of serving sizes, as well require staff to attend a certified Responsible Beverage Service training.

Alcoholic Beverage Control

ABC Investigators are sworn law enforcement officers with powers of arrest. A warrant is not necessary for a ABC investigators or other law enforcement officers to enter and conduct inspections of any establishment that serves alcohol.

Typically, inspections are unannounced, so always give full cooperation and access to ABC investigators and law enforcement officers.

It’s a good idea to notify management upon arrival of an ABC representative or law enforcement officer so they can provide accurate responses to inquiries.



Interfering With an Inspection

ABC investigators have similar authorities to law enforcement representatives, therefore, criminal penalties can result from interfering with, or delaying an inspection.

Consequences may include fines of $100-$1,000, and/or one to six months in county jail. (Sec. 25616 B&P)

If you physically contact an investigator/officer it is considered assault, and penalties could be a fine of $2,000 and/or one year in county jail.

ABC penalties are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Community Relations


All business that have an alcohol license have an obligation to uphold good relationships with the ABC, the surrounding community, local law enforcement, and the district attorney’s office.

Community Relations


The licensee has an obligation to the community. Businesses must ensure that their customers and/or entertainment do not interfere with the surrounding residents’ peaceful enjoyment of their own home or other businesses’ operating without interference. This obligation to the community includes noise levels, and inappropriate or illegal behavior of patrons within 20 feet of the business property.


Community Relations


All business that have an alcohol license have an obligation to uphold good relationships with the ABC, by serving alcohol within the legal guidelines for their business. These include: types of beverages they sell, alcohol sales hours, serving to persons over 21, and not over-serving their customers.


Community Relations


The type of relationship a business has with local law enforcement may be based on the number of incidents in which law enforcement needs to respond. A business with responsible sales practices is less likely to need frequent police assistance with their customers.

However, a poor relationship with law enforcement may result from excessive calls for service due to illegal alcohol sales.

Community Relations


The district attorney oversees the prosecution of misdemeanor and felony charges including all DUI (driving under the influence) incidents, as well as prosecuting persons who provide alcohol to underage drinkers who hurt somebody or themselves, especially if a death occurs as a result of the underage drinking. 

20 Foot Area of Control

Businesses are responsible for the activities occurring within common customer areas, storage areas, offices and bathrooms, as well as for what happens outside of their business. These areas can include parking lots, behind the building, public sidewalks, and anywhere else within 20 feet of the property.

Objectionable Conditions

Prohibited activities within a business’ 20 foot area of control are known as “objectionable conditions,” these include:

  • Disturbing the peace
  • Drinking in public
  • Public drunkenness
  • Harassment of others
  • Gambling
  • Loitering
  • Urinating in public
  • Lewd conduct
  • Drug deals
  • Loud noises
  • Prostitution

Illegal Activities

Licensees may not allow illegal activity to occur on the premises.

This may include:

Gambling, drugs or prostitution.

Criminal penalty for violation is maximum of six months in county jail and/or $1,000 fine.

Any licensee who knowingly permits illegal sales or negotiations of narcotics or dangerous drugs shall face revocation of his or her ABC license.


Age Requirements to Serve Alcohol

Employees over 18 years of age may sell and deliver alcohol as part of regular food service to customers.

Bartenders/mixologists must be 21 years of age. This means that all employees that enter the bar area and open alcoholic beverage containers- including bottles, cans, and beer tap pulls- must be at least 21 years of age.


License Types

Businesses apply for a specific license type depending on the intended purpose of the business they will operate.

For example, one business may operate primarily as a restaurant with alcohol available, while another may only provide a nightclub atmosphere with no desire to prepare or serve food.

Each alcohol license is issued dependent upon the type of business that will be operated.

License Types

Typically, if an establishment serves food as part of their business, they will be permitted to allow minors to enter.

The following license types provide the requirements and restrictions for alcohol service as defined by the ABC.

All Age License Types


  • Authorizes the sale of beer for consumption on or off the premises where sold. No wine or distilled spirits may be on the premises. Full meals are not required; however, sandwiches or snacks must be available.
  • Minors are allowed on the premises.


  • Authorizes the sale of beer and wine for consumption on or off the premises where sold. Distilled spirits may not be on the premises (except brandy, rum, or liqueurs for use solely for cooking purposes). Must operate and maintain the licensed premises as a bona fide eating place. Must maintain suitable kitchen facilities, and must make actual and substantial sales of meals for consumption on the premises.
  • Minors are allowed on the premises.


  • Authorizes the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits for consumption on the licenses premises. Authorizes the sale of beer and wine for consumption off the licenses premises. Must operate and maintain the licensed premises as a bona fide eating place. Must maintain suitable kitchen facilities, and must make actual and substantial sales of meals for consumption on the premises.
  • Minors are allowed on the premises.

21 & Over License Types


  • Authorizes the sale of beer and wine for consumption on or off the premises where sold.
  • No distilled spirits may be on the premises.
  • Minors are not allowed to enter and remain (see Section 25663.5 for exception, musicians).
  • Food service is not required.


  • Authorizes the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits for consumption on the premises where sold.
  • Authorizes the sale of beer and wine for consumption off the premises where sold.
  • Minors are not allowed to enter and remain (see Section 25663.5 for exception, musicians).
  • Food service is not required.

Sales Off Hours

  • No sales of alcohol in California are ever legal between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. 

That actually means no one can legally possess alcohol or continue to consume alcohol in a business after that time. If a customer buys a beer at 1:50 AM, and the customer doesn’t finish it by 2:00AM, you have to collect it from the customer.

  • Some licenses are required to end alcohol sales earlier. Local authorities have the right to impose stricter alcohol sales conditions on a business, and that is what the business must follow!



Penalties for Sales Off Hours

  • Selling alcohol after hours is a criminal offense.
  • Penalties include fines of up to $1,000, and/or six months in county jail for licensee or employee and the patron who knowingly purchases after hours.
  • ABC penalties are decided on a case-by-case basis.


Three Kinds of Liability

  1. Administrative
  2. Criminal
  3. Civil

Administrative Liability

This liability affects the Licensee (the owner of the alcohol sales license).

The Licensee is administratively accountable to the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) for ANY infractions whether or not he or she personally committed them. In other words, the business itself will face Administrative Liabilities in addition to criminal or civil charges any server may face.

Criminal Liability

The individual server is personally held responsible for serving an individual under 21 years of age; he or she could have a criminal record as a result of the misdemeanor infraction!

Some additional consequences may include fines, community service hours, and/or probation. In cases when death occurs due to underage drinking, jail time may be imposed on the provider/server.

Criminal Liability

25602. (a) Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any habitual or common drunkard or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor.

~ §§ 25602 (Business & Professional Code)

Civil Liability

Civil Liabilities vary from state to state. Nearly 40 states nationwide have “Dram Shop Liability” laws which hold the server or host providing alcohol responsible for damages or injuries caused by the drunken patron or guest.

* “Dram Shop” is a term used to indicate a bar or tavern. Originating in England, it was a term used during the 18th century identifying businesses selling spoonful quantities of alcohol.

Civil Liability

Civil liability is a means in which injured parties attempt to seek compensation ($) for damages or losses.

Dram Shop Liability in California is limited to serving alcohol to minors. Licensees and server(s) may be held liable for damages, injuries, or death caused by providing alcohol to an underage drinker.

Civil Liability

Sometimes, judgments from civil cases may exceed the liability insurance coverage a business carries. In those cases, plaintiffs may attempt to seek compensation from all parties involved individually, in addition to the business.

California Civil Liability

(b) No person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage pursuant to subdivision (a) of this section shall be civilly liable to any injured person or the estate of such person for injuries inflicted on that person as a result of intoxication by the consumer of such alcoholic beverage. (c) The Legislature hereby declares that this section shall be interpreted so that the holdings in cases such as Vesely v. Sager (5 Cal. 3d 153), Bernhard v. Harrah's Club (16 Cal. 3d 313) and Coulter v. Superior Court (____ Cal. 3d ____) be abrogated in favor of prior judicial interpretation finding the consumption of alcoholic beverages rather than the serving of alcoholic beverages as the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.

§§ 25602 (Business & Professional Code)



Do you feel confident in your understanding of the following information?

  1. The different types of Liabilities and whom they effect?

  2. The role of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control?

  3. What is meant by the term “Objectionable Conditions”? Could you list some?

Chapter 2 (copy)


Sales to Minors

“(a) Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any person under the age of 21 years is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) Any person under the age of 21 years who purchases any alcoholic beverage, or any person under the age of 21 years who consumes any alcoholic beverage in any on-sale premises, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

§§ 25658 (Business & Professional Code)

Identifying Minors

Physical Appearance

A person under the age of 21 isn’t always going to look like they are, but remember- checking I.D.’s is the only defense for not serving to someone under 21!

  • Wearing makeup to look older is a typical technique females use to gain access to alcohol or admission to clubs.
  • Growing facial hair to look older is a common approach used by males.

Looks can be deceiving, don’t be fooled; ask everyone for an ID.


Behaviors to Consider

Flirting – Can be very flattering, but do not let this make you forget to check his/her I.D. It is a technique to throw you off guard in hopes that you will not check their I.D.

Overly Nervous – Typically, when a person is not being truthful their behavior appears akward or uncomfortable, some signs to look for are: shifty eyes, watching over their shoulder, and not making eye contact.

Immaturity – Immature behavior could be an indication of age.

Inexperience – If a person seems unfamiliar with types of drinks available or brand names of alcoholic products they may not be over 21 years of age.

Additional Indicators

College Students / Companions

The typical age of college students can range from 18 to 26. Just because someone is over 21 years of age, it does not mean that all of their peers or friends are. Be sure to check every new customers’ I.D., even when they are with a known regular who is over 21.

I.D. Excuses

Not matter their excuse for not having an I.D. on them, your only defense to serving alcohol to someone over 21 is that you checked their I.D.

Drinks Selected

Underaged drinkers typically haven’t developed a taste for alcohol, so they order sweet drinks that mask distilled spirits’ harsh taste. There is sometimes a goal to get drunk quickly, and they may intentionally order mixed drinks that contain more than a standard serving of alcohol - such as what is know as an “Adios,” or “Long Island Iced Tea.”

Common Tactics Used By Underaged Persons

Fake ID or borrowing an I.D. – Make sure it is in fact their I.D.

Drink sharing – Just because one person at the table is over 21, doesn’t mean everyone is, watch everyone at the table, and make sure no one is allowing a minor to drink from their beverage.

Presenting an empty glass is a common technique. An underaged person simply grabs an abandoned empty glass from another table and asks for “another drink.” It doesn’t mean that they are old enough, just that they are confident you will not ask them for their ID.

Defenses Available for Selling to a Minor:

You have only three (3) defenses against selling to a minor:

  1. No sale to, or serving of alcoholic beverages was made to a minor; basically, the drink did not contain alcohol.
  2. The person sold or served is in fact 21 years or older. Perhaps a customer forgot their I.D., and because you knew from examining their I.D. previously, they are in fact over 21, you served them. Once the I.D. has been verified by the authorities, it will be proven the customer is in fact of age to consume alcohol.
  3. The person sold or served presented a bona fide I.D. By accepting only current, bona-fide I.D.s, and using the recommended FLAG verification technique with every I.D. you inspect, you will have a better defense because you took the best approach to detecting a fake I.D., and identifying the person using it actually owned it.


Decoy Programs allow the ABC and other law enforcement agencies to employ persons under 20 years of age with the specific purpose of attempting to make purchases of alcohol.

The ABC has strict guidelines that are adhered to when selecting Decoy candidates. The intentions of Decoys are not to “trick” you into selling alcohol to a minor, but to ensure that you are properly verifying the age of persons purchasing alcoholic beverages.

ABC Rules for Decoys

  • Decoys shall be under age 20.
  • Decoys shall appear under age 21.
  • Decoys shall carry their own I.D. or no I.D.
  • If decoy carries I.D., they must show I.D. if asked.
  • Decoy shall answer truthfully any questions about his/her age.
  • Officer shall make reasonable try to have decoy identify seller face to face.


  • Decoys aren’t going to lie to you, but anyone else underage isn’t going to tell you the truth!
  • Only I.D. verification will assist your defense against selling to a minor.
  • Don’t assume because anyone hands you an I.D. they are over 21. Decoys will hand you their I.D., and it will state they are NOT 21- it is your job to check their birth date.




2.2 T.R.A.C.E.


  • Target
  • Responsibility for
  • Alcohol
  • Connected
  • Emergencies


The T.R.A.C.E. Protocol was developed by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Office of Traffic Safety, California Attorney General’s Office, California Highway Patrol, California Police Chiefs Association, and California State Sheriff’s Association.



The T.R.A.C.E. Protocol is the process by which the ABC investigates the source of where a minor obtained alcohol. This is specifically done in cases where a death has occurred due to a minor consuming alcohol. By reviewing receipts, watching recorded security surveillance, and interviewing witnesses, oftentimes the provider of alcohol can be identified.

The objective of T.R.A.C.E. is to hold adults accountable for providing alcohol to a minor, or allowing alcohol to be purchased by a minor.


Acceptable Forms of I.D.

  • United States or Government issued Identification Card
  • United States Issued Driver’s License
  • Passport
  • Military ID (with necessary elements)

Necessary Elements

  • Government Issued
  • Photo
  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Physical Description
  • Signature
  • Is Current (not expired)

California Drivers Licenses

Notice the new graphics on the license include trees, waves, mountains, a butterfly, bears, and the word “California.”

Also, the birth date is printed on the bottom portion of the main photo as well as to the right of the ghost photo.

Bona Fide

U.S. Passport and U.S. Military I.D.

Non-Bona Fide


Verification Technique


Is an acronym for a verification technique that will help you in your defense against selling or serving alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 years of age.

Please use your own I.D. for this segment, and locate the security features.



The “F” in F.L.A.G. stands for “Feel.”

I.D. Textures

Q: What does it feel like?

A: California licenses should not be completely flat, the California license has security features that can be felt!

  1. DOB on the main photo

  2. DOB in black print on the right side

  3. DOB on the back side next to the 2D barcode.

  4. Signature

Q: Does it bend?

A: It should flex to a “C” without snapping in half, or making cracking or popping sounds.

Circled Security Features Can Be Felt



The “L” in F.L.A.G. stands for “Look.”

What do you see?

Does the photo match?

Is this the person on the ID? Do they have the same eyes, ears, chin? Does the main photo match the ghost photo?

Does physical description match?

Hair and weight can change, but a person’s height, or eye color does not.

What is the date of birth?

Are they old enough to enter/order alcoholic drinks?

Is the ID expired?

Remember, if it isn’t current, it isn’t bona fide – do not accept expired I.D.

Under 21 Vertical Format

All California Driver Licenses and I.D. cards have the same textile security features, but they are located in different places!

The embossed birthdate on the main photo is at the top.

The smaller DOB in black is printed sideways, and is located to the right of the raised signature under the main photo.

Where is the Main Photo?

To ensure that an I.D. you are unfamiliar with is authentic, referring to an I.D. Checking Guide can help you determine if it is genuine.

Driver License / I.D. Numbers

The numbers are currently red on both this and the new version. They are no longer green.

Counterfeit vs. Genuine


The font on any given line should be uniform and no letter should be offset.  The address information is a smaller font size than the name line. There should be no misspellings of things that appear on every card, such as the name of the state, or words like “license.”


The year of the expiration date should match the number printed next to “FD” on the bottom right of the card.  If the numbers DON’T match, it’s likely to be fake - ask to see their work Visa because that is an exception and the expiration of the work authorization will match their license.

Look on Back

Note that the birth date is printed sideways, next to the new 2D barcode, and to the right of that, the signature is printed again.

There are graphics of the Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding land and water.

There is hidden micro printing within the back of the I.D. as well as the front.

Other Fake I.D. Indicators

Do you notice holograms stating “Authentic,” “Genuine,” “Novelty” or little keys in the background? If so, it’s a fake!

A black light is an easy tool to use to see these holograms, and also detect if there has been any tampering with lamination.


This example only applicable on California – other states have different micro-printing.

Security feature found using ultra violet light


The “A” in F.L.A.G. stands for “Ask.”

Still Have Doubts?

Ask questions that someone “borrowing” an I.D. wouldn’t know.

  • “What is your zip code?” This information is not usually memorized.
  • “What’s your sign?” If you know astrology, they may tell you their sign, not the sign of the owner of the license.
  • “What is your birth date?” Most people will say the name of the month they were born (i.e. “November 19th”) If they respond with “11/19/1990,” ask them “Which month is that?” They may hesitate to figure it out.
  • “Can you sign your name for me?” The borrower doesn’t necessarily know how to duplicate the signature on the card, or they may even sign their own name!

Ask for 2nd Form of I.D.

If you have doubts, request a second form of identification.

If given a military I.D., or passport ask for a driver license. How did they arrive at your location? If they drove, they should have a driver license with them. 

Give Back

The “G” in F.L.A.G. stands for “Give Back” the I.D.

Can You Confiscate a Fake I.D.?

You have the legal right to seize a false ID if you:

  • A) Issue a receipt to the person you took it from.


  • B) Give the I.D. to local law enforcement within 24 hours.

Ask your manager about your House Policy.

If You're Still in Doubt...

You have a LEGAL right to refuse to sell alcohol to anyone who cannot produce adequate written evidence of age!

If a customer LOOKS 16, even with an I.D. stating s/he is 21, do not allow the sale of alcohol. Before selling alcohol, you are required to make a reasonable assessment of appearance in regard to age.

I.D. Scanners

I.D. scanners are helpful in reducing human errors when calculating age.

Scanners also help to identify a fraudulent identification card when no information is displayed, or reads an ERROR message.

Scanner Limitations

Law enforcement finds most I.D.s used by minors are actually real, but do not belong to the person presenting it.

Scanners are not used to replace the F.L.A.G. technique, but in conjunction with it! 


Sales to Minors

Remember, selling alcohol to persons under 21 is a CRIMINAL OFFENSE. Listed below are the common consequences for breaking this law.

1st Offense: $1500.00 fine and/or 24-32 hours community service.

If Death occurs as a result of the sale of alcohol to someone under 21, the person providing alcohol could go to jail for 1 year.

Minors in Possession

It is not just the provider of the alcohol committing a crime:


Penalties for minors in possession include fines of $250-500 and/or 36-48 community service hours. They may also lose driving privileges for one year or until their 21st birthday.


Administrative liability plays a part in the sale of alcohol to persons under 21 years of age as well. Consequences for the Licensee (the business):

  • 1st offense: $750 - $3,000 fine, license suspension or probation.
  • 2nd offense: Within 3 years, the penalty is mandatory license suspension.
  • Third offense within 3 years, LICENSE MAY BE REVOKED!

What Would You Do?

In the following video, watch closely so that you can answer questions at the end about what the appropriate action would be.


What Would You Do?

  • Tell the customer that no alcohol can be served to him, but he can share his friends' drinks.
  • Tell the customer that no alcohol can be served to him and warn your co-workers and manager so that they can look out for and prevent drink sharing.
  • Go ahead and serve him but warn him to bring an I.D. next time.
  • Ask his friends if they will vouch for him, and double check their I.D.s before serving him.

What Would You Do?



Do you feel confident in your understanding of the following information?

  • What information must all bona-fide forms I.D.s contain?

  • What penalties can result from serving alcohol to someone under 21 years of age?

  • What is the four-step technique recommended for verifying I.D.s?

Chapter 3 (copy)



Sales to Intoxicated Customers

Serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person is illegal, and can create unwanted liabilities for the licensee.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

What is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?

A person’s BAC is the amount of alcohol in their blood. And it is used to measure a person’s level intoxication for legal and medical purposes.

Here are some BAC’s rates and the resulting physical reaction to that level of intoxication:

.02 – .06% 

Minor loss of coordination, slight euphoria and loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent. Mildly relaxed, may be a little lightheaded. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory.

.07 – .09% 

Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time and hearing. Judgment and self-control are reduced.

In all states it is illegal to drive with .08% BAC levels.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

.10 – .125%

Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, hearing and reaction time will be impaired. May feel euphoric, really happy.

.13 – .15%

Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Happiness is reduced and anxiety begins to appear. Judgment and perception are severely impaired.

.16 – .19%

Dysphoria, or feelings of depression, become apparent. Nausea may occur. Drinker has the appearance of a “sloppy drunk”.

Blood Alcohol Concentration


Feeling dazed, confused or otherwise disoriented. May need help to stand or walk. If injury occurs, pain may not be felt. Some people have nausea and vomiting at this time.


All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. Increased danger of asphyxiation from choking on vomit, and increased risk of serious injury due to falling or other accidents.

“The gag reflex is impaired, so people may choke if they do vomit.”

Blood Alcohol Concentration


Little comprehension of where they are. People suddenly pass out, and are difficult to wake.


This is the equivalent level of surgical anesthesia! Anesthesiologist have intense schooling to not let us overdose. Most alcohol consumers do not, and may make fatal errors about how much they can consume.

.40% and up POSSIBLE DEATH

Onset of coma, and possible death due to respiratory arrest. Alcohol is a depressant that slows everything down, including our breathing.


Sale to Obviously Intoxicated Person

Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any habitual or common drunkard or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

~ §§ 25602; 25602.1 (Business & Professional Code)

Definition of Obviously

A person is obviously intoxicated when the AVERAGE PERSON can plainly see the person is intoxicated.

In other words, the person looks or acts drunk.


Customer service often includes verbal communication. This is the perfect opportunity to assess if your customer might be exhibiting signs of intoxication.

Relaxed inhibitions? Impaired motor skills? Slowed reaction time? Impaired judgment?

Notice your customers behavior when they arrive, so that you can monitor it for change throughout their time there.  

Relaxed Inhibitions

People are more likely to do activities when intoxicated that they wouldn’t normally do when they are sober. Relaxed inhibitions translates to not being as concerned about other people’s perceptions of our actions or activities.

Some of these things can include:

  • Being overly friendly
  • Using foul or offensive language
  • Taking off clothing
  • Singing Karaoke

Impaired Motor Skills

Impaired motor skills can present themselves in many ways, here are a few:

  • Swaying, stumbling or falling
  • Dropping things
  • Knocking things over
  • Lighting the wrong end of a cigarette
  • Slurred speech

Please note: a person may have a speech impediment or a disability that may simulate a sign of intoxication or impaired motor skills. Upon each guests arrival, communication can help identify a physical trait versus an alcohol impairment.

Slowed Reaction Time

Alcohol is a depressant which slows the body down, and can delay a person’s reaction time, causing hazards to the drinker.

Observable signs could include:

  • Slow, deliberate movements
  • Loses train of thought
  • Drowsy
  • Does not respond to approaching hazards, such as a fist, or car

Impaired Judgment

Intoxicated persons perception of situations, circumstances, or solutions can impair their judgment.

Observable responses can include:

  • Being argumentative or belligerent
  • Underestimating their intoxication
  • Overestimating their ability to drive
  • Complaining of drink strength
  • Overly loud conversations

Additional Signs of Intoxication

Individually, these indicators may not mean that a person is intoxicated, but in combination with the others, be aware that the person may be approaching intoxication:

  • Disheveled appearance
  • Flush face
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Alcoholic breath

Keep an eye on your customer from the start: red, watery eyes could mean allergies, but if the patron had clear eyes and wasn’t disheveled when they arrived, and later is, this combination could be alerting you that alcohol is having an affect on this person.


Traffic Light System

The “traffic light system” is a simple control technique for busy servers to help them monitor a patron’s alcohol consumption and rate of intoxication.

Each color (green, yellow and red) means a different set of service control actions appropriate for the patron’s drinking pattern.



If the guest is:

  • In a good mood;

  • Not impaired;

  • Has had one drink or none;

  • Is not out to get drunk;

  • Is two or more drinks below capacity.

It is acceptable to serve this guest!



If the guest is:

  • Drinking quickly, but not yet intoxicated;
  • Is in a “down” mood;
  • Out to celebrate and drink heavily;
  • Is one drink below his/her capacity;
  • May show some signs of impairment.


The guest is not yet intoxicated, but you should be cautious about serving further drinks. You MUST stop serving a guest before he/she becomes intoxicated!




If the guest is:

  • Likely showing several early signs of intoxication;
  • May be in a strange, aggressive, depressed or bad mood;
  • Is drinking fast;
  • Seems intent on becoming drunk;
  • Has reached or exceeded capacity.

STOP! The guest appears intoxicated and should not be served alcohol! Even if they have a designated driver! It is ILLEGAL to serve to an intoxicated person.

*Offer food or other non-alcoholic alternatives.



Standard Serving Size

A standard serving size refers specifically to the alcoholic content of a beverage being the equivalent of .6 ounces (just over half an ounce).

Serving sizes (in ounces) vary dependant upon the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV) in the type of beverage being served.

Standard Serving Size

  • Beer (*5% alcohol) = 12 oz.
  • Wine (12% alc) = 5 oz.
  • Liqueurs (15% alc or “30 proof”) = 4 oz.
  • Liqueurs (20% alc or “40 proof”) = 3 oz.
  • Distilled spirits (40% alc or “80 proof”) = 1.5 oz.
  • Distilled spirits (50% alc or “100 Proof”) = 1 oz.

* Many ales and micro beers are much higher in alcohol content, and the average ABV of wine is currently 13.5%


Standard Serving Size


These drinks have the same amount of alcohol!

Drink Calculations

Let’s take a look at some common drink recipes to try and determine how many servings of alcohol are in them, versus the preceived amount of alcohol that the patron drinks.

Drink Calculations - Margarita

3 ounces tequila

1½ ounces triple sec

3 ounces sweet & sour mix

3 ounces strawberry margarita mix

Blend margarita mix and sweet & sour, then add tequila and triple sec and blend again. Pour into chilled mug or glass, and garnish with fruit.

Margarita = 2.4 Standard Servings

  • 3 ounces tequila – 80 proof (= 2 servings)
  • 1½ ounces triple sec – 30 proof (= 0.4 servings)
  • 3 ounces sweet & sour mix (none)
  • 3 ounces strawberry margarita mix (none)


A customer hasn’t had “2 drinks” when they’ve had two margaritas like this one, they’ve had nearly five Standard Servings.

Drink Calculations - Mojito

  • 1.5 ounces rum
  • 12 mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces soda

Muddle mint leaves then add ice, rum, sugar, lime juice and soda. Garnish with additional mint leaves.

Mojito = 1 Standard Serving

  • 1½ ounces rum (1 serving)
  • 12 mint leaves (none)
  • 1 tbsp. Sugar (none)
  • ½ ounce lime juice (none)
  • 2 ounces soda (none)

This Mojito recipe has (1) serving of alcohol in it.

Standard Serving Size

Accurate Drink Counting

Accurate Drink Counting


Alcohol Absorption

Alcohol does not have to be digested to begin effecting a patron. A small amount of alcohol is absorbed through the mouth as soon as drinking begins (nearly 5%).

Additional absorption (about 15%) occurs through the stomach without being digested. Stomach contents, like food, usually slow the rate of process.

The small intestine is responsible for approximately 80% of alcohol delivery to the body.

Sample California DMV Drink Chart Guide

Drink Counting & Body Estimations

Drink counting is an effective means of helping to gauge a customer’s BAC.

Remember you should be counting standard servings which is not necessarily the number of drinks they purchased or consumed.

Rate of Process

The liver processes alcohol at the rate of one standard drink per hour.

Only time can lower BAC levels!

Not water.

Not coffee.

Not an energy drink.

Not a hot shower.

Just TIME.


Factors Contributing to Effects of Alcohol

Food Consumption – If the stomach contains food, it will slow down the rate of absorption. The body will ultimately receive all the alcohol consumed, but it will occur more slowly if the stomach is trying to digest food at the same time as alcohol.

Tolerance Level – A seasoned drinker will not usually show signs of intoxication as quickly as an inexperienced drinker. They may be able to consume higher quantities of alcohol before you can observe signs of intoxication; however, higher tolerance does not mean lower BAC levels. If you know that your customer has consumed enough alcohol to put them over .08 BAC it is good to suggest a riding with a sober driver.

Factors Contributing to Effects of Alcohol

Fatigue and Stress – If the drinker is already tired, alcohol (a depressant) can intensify this feeling, and likewise, if a person is stressed, it can bring hostility or aggression that would regularly be kept “inside” of a sober person.

Body Type – muscular body types will have a lower BAC level compared to someone that is the same size but has a mostly fatty body composition when drinking equal quantities of alcohol.

Factors Contributing to Effects of Alcohol

Gender – Biologically, a woman has a higher body fat concentration, and thus a higher BAC level then a man of the same size and weight.

Mood – Alcohol tends to intensify the prevalent mood the drinker is in at the time of consumption. If they’re happy, they get happier, if they are upset, the get more so.

General Health – Mixing drugs with alcohol can intensify or mask the signs of intoxication. If you think your customer has a cold, flu or other illness it may helpful to know if your customer is taking medications. 

Factors Contributing to Effects of Alcohol

Carbonation speeds up absorption of alcohol into the body.

Drink Temperature – Warm drinks are absorbed faster as they are closer to the temperature of the drinkers blood.

Mixers used may mask intoxication levels. Energy drinks mixed with alcohol are a dangerous combination! The FDA stopped the sales of packaged Alcoholic Energy Drinks at stores due to the serious health risks associated with the combination of stimulants and depressants. 

Pacing Guest Consumption

  • Serve one standard drink at a time
  • Stall delivering beverages for a few minutes
  • Always bring water – this will allow the drinker to feel like they still have a drink as you stall service.
  • Offer a non-alcoholic beverage alternative.
  • Offer food whenever possible.

Suggest Alternatives

Protein vs. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are quickly broken down by the body – pretzels, chips, bread, etc., and do not slow down the rate of alcohol absorption very well.

Proteins take longer to break down and will delay the passage of alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine; slowing alcohol absorption.


Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

  • It is a crime for any person with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher to operate a motor vehicle on a public roadway.
  • Drivers with less than .08 may be cited based upon officers’ discretion.
  • It is ZERO TOLERANCE if the driver is under age 21.

Your lifestyle is your business; if you take it on the road it becomes everyones business.”

Intoxicated Customer Driving?

  • If customer is driving, offer to arrange an alternative ride home.
  • If customer insists on driving, advise that you will have to inform the police.
  • If customer gets behind the wheel call 911 to report the drunk driver.

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Arranging an Alternative Ride

  • Your customer may have spent their money on beverages, and not able to afford a cab home.

If so, offer to call family or friends!

  • Does your employer have a safe ride program available in a situation like this?


Public Intoxication 647 (F)PC

What qualifies as “public intoxication?”

If the person is:

  • In a public place.

  • Under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Unable to exercise care for their own safety or the safety of others.

Habitual Drunkards

“No person may sell or give alcohol to anyone who is a habitual drunkard (a person who has lost control over his or her drinking).”

A server may discover this one of two ways: a family member or law enforcement advises you of the problem, or the customer is a regular and unable to handle drinking on a regular basis. 

Penalties for Sales to Either:

CRIMINAL: Max $1,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail.

ABC: 1st offense decided case-by-case basis, but 2nd offense is mandatory license suspension.

CIVIL: Lawsuits with money judgments or settlements determined by the court or a jury. (Usually against everyone – seller, licensee, licensee’s insurer, etc.)

What Would You Do?

In the upcoming video, watch closely so that you can answer questions at the end about what the appropriate action would be.


What Would You Do?

  • Persuade them to stay and have another drink.
  • Watch them carefully to make sure they don't hit any cars when driving away.
  • Call the police.
  • Offer to call a cab.

How They Did It?

The video showed how staff offered multiple ways to persuade the customer to not drive:

  • Offered to call a cab
  • The manager stepped in
  • A non-alcoholic beverage was offered
  • Addressed the customer's concern that their car would not get towed and that there was a surveillance camera in the parking lot



Do you feel confident in your understanding of the following information?

  • Do you know how many ounces of beer, wine, or distilled spirits equal a “Standard Serving.”

  • Can you list at least six (6) signs of intoxication?

  • Do you understand how rate of consumption affects BAC levels, and how long it takes one drink to be processed through the body?

  • Can you list techniques helpful in pacing guests consumption of alcohol?




Chapter 4 (copy)





Refusing Service

When you need to refuse service to a customer, let someone else know. Tell your fellow co-worker(s), manager, and security about your decision and ask them to be ready as your back-up.

Your own personal safety should be your primary concern in a potentially dangerous situation.

Refusing Service

Before you refuse service, have a back-up person on stand-by, ready to intervene with the guest(s) you are concerned about. Sometimes guests become angry when they don’t get what they want- namely alcohol- so have someone available to diffuse the situation with you, if it becomes necessary.

Even if the guest doesn’t become upset, it is good to have the back-up of someone else to confirm to your guest you have to refuse service.

Additionally, if there is a problem among patrons that seems like it could get dangerous or violent, it is important for you to move other guests to a safe location, away from the arising problem.

Refusing Service

  • If you think that you will stop serving alcohol to a customer, don’t say This is your last one, I wont serve you anymore after this.
  • It is best to advise the customer you won’t be serving them at the time they order a drink, not before – as they may have already made this decision themselves, and doing so could create a problem where there wasn’t going to be one.
  • If possible, offer a non-alcoholic alternative, or suggest food.

Refusing Service

  • Use a non-offensive tone and words that will not offend the customer.
  • For example say: “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to serve you any more alcohol today.”
  • Dont say: “You’re too drunk ! We’re cutting you off!”

Refusing Service

  • Do not negotiate with intoxicated individuals. (When you have made your decision – stick to it! Be firm and polite.)
  • If you need to further explain your decision, let the customer know that by serving them, you could get into trouble with your manager, law enforcement and the ABC.


Incident Log

An Incident Log is a great tool to help limit liability:

  • Detail information regarding situations at your establishment.
  • Bound notebook – can’t add/remove pages.
  • Daily entries
  • Do not remove pages

Incident Log Benefits

  • Provides communication between employees and management.
  • Provides details of situations that may come into question in the future.
  • May provide protection in the event of a lawsuit.

What to Document

  • Confiscating a fake ID
  • Arranging a ride for intoxicated customers
  • Any incident of harassment (for you or other customers)
  • Declining sales to persons you believe to be intoxicated, or trying to provide alcohol to a minor
  • Reporting illicit drug transactions to law enforcement


Guest Safety

  • Anticipate problem situations.
  • Communicate with co-workers and management.
  • Move other guests away from any danger or violence.
  • Call police.

Reducing Liabilities

  • Be aware of your environment, inside the establishment and outside surrounding areas.
  • Communicate concerns.
  • Check IDs for alcohol sales for all persons appearing under 30 years of age.
  • Pay attention to your guests and notice changes in their behavior.
  • Know when to say “No.” 

What Would You Do?

In the upcoming video, watch closely so that you can answer questions at the end about what the appropriate action would be.


What Would You Do?

  • Call the police
  • Serve just one more drink and notify the manager
  • Serve them water or soda and tell your co-workers and manager that they shouldn't be served any more alcohol
  • Give them a beer

What Would You Do?


What Would You Do?

In the upcoming video, watch closely so that you can answer questions at the end about what the appropriate action would be.


What Would You Do?

  • The manager offered the customer food without determining if he had enough money to pay for it first.
  • The bartender called the manager when the customer asked him to. He should have continued trying to talk to the customer himself.
  • The manager immediately said, "I'm not going to be able to give you a drink either." She should have changed the subject to something distracting like sports.
  • The bartender told the customer he was drunk. He should have said, "We're just not going to serve you at this time."
This video intentionally shows a common mistake in handling customers. What could have been done differently?


Do you feel confident in your understanding of the following information?

Can you list three situations when you should refuse alcohol sales?

Do you know what type of information should be included in an incident log, and why it is useful?

Responsible Beverage Sales

This curriculum made possible through the cooperation of: California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Responsible Beverage Service Advisory Board, and


You have now completed the required Responsible Beverage Server curriculum. For course certification, you must now schedule a date to take your test.

All tests must be proctored by a Project SAFER instructor.

To arrange your appointment, send a request via email by clicking on the link:  test@projectsafer.org

Be sure to provide your name and contact information, so an instructor can reach you to schedule your test.