For some people, heading out to a bar or pub for a night means drinking to excess. Instead of having one or two drinks, they order 5, 6, or more, and it’s safe to say that when most people drink that much, they’re well over the legal limit to drive by the time they leave for the night. Because alcohol has a way of making you lose your own good judgement, does it become someone else’s responsibility to make you stop drinking when you’ve crossed the line and could potentially drink and drive? As it turns out, it does.
SIP Laws, named for prohibiting ‘sales to intoxicated people,’ make it a criminal act for servers to sell alcohol to someone who is clearly intoxicated. With the exception of Florida and Nevada, all states have SIP laws designed to penalize establishments who over serve alcohol. The type of charge, whether it is criminal or administrative, depends on the violation.
A great example of what can happen if you overserve alcohol comes courtesy of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department’s Alcohol and Gaming Division – they penalized four businesses for overserving after they deemed them responsible for four separate driving while intoxicated (DWI) incidents from 2012 on. The four paid fines of $44,000 combined and have all had their liquor licenses suspended temporarily.
One of the spots, Ojos Locos Sports Cantina, was charged after a man spent the night drinking there and then left with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that was double the legal limit. He drove away, crashed his car, and died shortly after. The Ojos Locos was required to pay the state $12,000 and received an 8-day suspension of their liquor license.
SIP laws are in place so servers think beyond the idea that someone is just another tab during the course of a busy night. That extra drink or two you serve could be someone’s last, and as those restaurants and pubs in New Mexico can now attest, there are severe repercussions if you overserve alcohol.