Congratulations, friends, you’ve survived yet another St. Patrick’s Day.
Loved by partiers, often loathed by bartenders, the holiday falls under the wonderfully broad umbrella that we lovingly refer to as Amateur Hour (see also: Halloween, New Year’s Eve, 21st birthdays, pub crawls, Saturday). Because you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning, right?
Some of you, maybe many of you, were cut off this weekend as you tried to buy yet another Irish Car Bomb (which is kind of horrible of you, but more on that another time) for your friend who is barely standing and were told, in however many words, No.
Others were the ones doing the telling.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s call the folks being refused service Group A, and those doing the refusing Group B.
“Why in the world won’t they give me another drink?” Group A wonders.
“Why would you want another drink?!” Group B cries.
Here’s the long and short of it: It is illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated. Those serving alcohol to noticeably drunk people can, in Massachusetts, lose their jobs for doing so, and a bar or restaurant can lose its liquor license.
Why? Because people are animals, and if given access to as much alcohol as they want, many will drink themselves to death, that’s why. Because bad things happen when you pour 15 beers down your throat. Because spilling, tripping, falling, groping, fighting, damaged property, verbal abuse, vomiting, public urination, and disorderly conduct.
Considering all of this, it is within the server of alcohol’s rights to deny drinks to anyone who appears like they’re riding the line between having fun and having one too many. It is also within our right to refuse service if you are a belligerent asshole, or if your friend pukes all over the bathroom. It will forever and always be anyone’s right to deny you service if you scream at a bartender or server or if someone in your group falls asleep at the bar. Again: It is illegal to over-serve someone. It is also incredibly taxing to deal with hordes of very drunk people.
As for tending to this problem…
Cutting people off is a tricky skill to master. The art of the cut-off is harrowing—people don’t like hearing the word “no” and, to be honest, many hospitality workers really don’t like telling people “no.” It’s awkward. People get mad. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they call us names and make it a very personal affair. If you didn’t get your fill over the weekend, here are a few personal favorite drunk-person stories…
Girl who cried California
The bar was too busy for me to notice that she was buying two shots of tequila and drinking both of them herself until, about half an hour and another round later, she injected herself into a couple’s conversation and then started to cry about something no one could understand. Having someone sit at the bar and cry is bad for everyone, so I stepped in and, via estrogen-laced ninja moves, got her outside and attempted to help her call a cab. She swore her friend was inside, and when said friend did appear, crying girl promptly told me to go fuck myself. Later on, she apparently took a swing at our door guy after screaming repeatedly about how different things are in California, to which the bouncer replied, “You do know you’re in Massachusetts, right?” And she began to cry again.
Man with the worst friends ever
Raise your hand if you would sit idly by with your friend passed out on a table.
After alerting the sober members of this sap’s party that their friend was far too drunk, had just puked all over the bathroom floor, had to be taken home immediately—and that the drinks they’d just ordered from their server would not be arriving, here’s your check—they… did… nothing. Not five minutes later he hurled all over the table, spurring me to scream, and this may be one of my proudest moments of bartending (or one I should be somewhat ashamed of), “That’s it! GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY BAR!”
And they did. But not before the jackass puked on his shoes and the floor.
Man who called us every name in the book because we did not produce baklava, which was not on the menu, for him after the kitchen had closed
And then proceeded to get so aggressive and mean that the cops were called. He left before they arrived and was later seen wandering back and forth outside the restaurant because he couldn’t figure out which direction he needed to walk in.
And the girl with him who didn’t even try to shut him up and threw handfuls of money on the bar hoping we would still serve her
Copyright 2016 Haley Hamilton. Terms of Service is licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.
Haley is an AAN Award-winning columnist for DigBoston and Mel magazine and has contributed to publications including the Boston Globe and helped found Homicide Watch Boston. She has spearheaded and led several Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism investigations including a landmark multipart series about the racialized history of liquor licensing in Massachusetts, and for three years wrote the column Terms of Service about restaurant industry issues from the perspective of workers.