The Cat’s MeowDate: April 30, 2012To: Thomas MarkerFrom: Emily MinerSubject: Alcohol Policy My name is Emily Miner, and I am writing to you at the request of the general manager,Joe Schmoe. I am currently an instructor and choreographer at The Cat’s Meow. I’ve worked atthe studio for the past four years. In fact, I’ve been a faithful employee since the business beganin 2008. In 2010, I received “Employee of the Year” award for my creative marketing strategies.In addition to these credentials, I recently obtained an associate’s degree in businessmanagement. With the acquisition of this degreeand an extensive knowledge of all aspects of thebusiness, I have been asked to find a solution to our recent issue concerning our methods ofserving alcohol. Watching The Cat’s Meow grow for the past four years has been an honor. Ihope that we may continue to develop and expand, providing the Pittsburgh area with qualityentertainment and dance instruction. As instructor and choreographer, I spend roughly 50 hours per week in the studio. Iattend every weekend performance in order to critique the dancers and continually improve ourshow. Many times over the past few months, I have noticed the patrons buying fewer drinks thannormal at the bar. I consulted the finance department and discovered that our bar profit hasdecreased 15% since December. Despite this fact, I also found that our customers have beenmuch more rowdy. The dancers have frequently notified both me and the club bouncer aboutsexual harassment attempts from intoxicated patrons. Our bouncer, Max Smith has had toremove more customers from the premises than usual. It seems that the issue is improper alcohol handling. Our bartenders may be servingcustomers beverages when they are clearly too drunk. They may also be serving drinks with toohigh of an alcohol content. This is illegal and puts The Cat’s Meow at risk for trouble with localauthorities and the FDA. The effect of over-serving puts both the dancers and the customers indanger. In addition, this practice costs us valuable profit from the bar, which is our highestsource of income. Last Friday night, I decided to take a break from watching the girls dance. Instead, Isurveyed the area, attempting to find evidence of the suspected problem. At the front of thevenue is a stage, lifted about three feet off the ground. In front of the stage are tables of varioussizes, three-seaters and six-seaters. All are classily decorated in black linen and candles. In thedark at the back of the venue is the bar. The bar is a black, marble topped, semicircle. Thebartender serves drinks to about 20 surrounding customers. That evening, I spoke with threepeople that evening who are all play a different role at The Cat’s Meow. Here are the results ofthe interviews:
The Cat’s MeowI interviewed a 22 year-old dancer, Molly Cunningham. She began as a student here threeyears ago and was offered a position as a professional dancer in early 2011.Me: Lately, have you noticed a difference in the atmosphere at The Cat’s Meow?Molly: I have noticed that the other customers have gotten rowdy earlier than they usually do. Iused to feel very comfortable here. The scene was more artistic. Now, the typical crowd haschanged from those who want to watch the show to those who are more interested in consumingalcohol and trying to cop feels.I interviewed a regular customer, Tyler Wilson. He is a 34-year old business man that hasfrequented The Cat’s Meow for two years.Me: Mr. Wilson, you regularly buy drinks at the bar. How do you feel about the quality of thosebeverages?Wilson: When I first started coming here, I purchased more drinks that I do now. Now, when Iorder a drink, it is incredibly strong. Often, it is too strong for me to finish. The bartenders arealso very charismatic. They almost pressure customers into buying drinks. I used to watch theshow from the bar and have a great time. Now, I prefer to take my drink to my table.I interviewed our Friday night bartender, Gary Lease. He has been working for The Cat’sMeow since November of 2011.Me: Gary, do you ever find that the customers are getting too rowdy? How do you know when tocut a customer off?Gary: No, I mean, the more fun that they are having, the better! I can’t imagine going out on aFriday night to a bar, unless you want to get drunk. I seldom cut customers off because I feel thatthey are just having a good time. I make the drinks very strong. That’s great for business, right? As you can see, there has been an increase in hazardous activity at The Cat’s Meow.Also, our bartender seems to be uninformed of Alcoholic Beverage Control laws. Willfullyserving customers alcoholic drinks whilst they are visibly intoxicated or serving drinks that aretoo strong at a bar can result in expensive and criminal consequences. I researched this problemthoroughly. Through research, I have learned about Pennsylvania Dram Shop Laws and the roleof Alcohol Beverage Control. I also investigated the court cases, Parker v. Slick Willie’sIncorporated and Rivero v. Timblin. These demonstrate the dangers of non-compliance withstandard alcohol handling procedures. Dram Shop Laws are essentially laws that can legally charge bars for the actions ofdrunken patrons. If a bar or restaurant is serving alcohol to a customer who is too intoxicated orif a venue is breaking any Alcohol Beverage Control codes in serving a customer, the businesscan be held liable for any harm that patron causes to himself/herself or others. These laws are ineffect in Pennsylvania. These laws are typically used against businesses in any case when anintoxicated patron dies or is physically injured or the patron kills or physically injures someoneelse. Dram Shop Laws are usually used against businesses in incidents of drunk driving andphysical altercations. (Cullen) I visited the local Bison Inn on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. There I spoke with abartender, Kathy Fairfield. Kathy is forty years old and has worked at the bar for almost ten
The Cat’s Meowyears. She explained to me that there are certain drinks that, by law, the bar cannot sell. Some ofthese drinks are: Irish Car Bombs, Hillbilly Ass Kickers, Widow-makers, and any drink that isconsidered “on fire”. When I asked her why bars aren’t allowed to serve these drinks, shereplied, “There’s too much alcohol in them. The customers don’t know what they are consumingwhen they order these drinks. It [the drink] hits them too fast and too hard. It can cause a lot ofproblems.”The Alcohol Beverage Control organization enforces these alcohol control lawsthrough random checks at bars and restaurants. Undercover agents may ask for illegal drinks. Ifan agent is served one of these drinks, the ABC can launch an investigation and revoke the bar orrestaurant’s liquor license. (Fairfield) At the grand opening of Slick Willie’s Family Pool Hall in November of 1999, acustomer, John Parker was allegedly served too many drinks. In the parking lot, he becameinvolved in a fistfight with another customer, Anthony Griffin. Parker suffered crippling braininjuries during this altercation. He blames the bar for serving him too much alcohol. During thelawsuit, he also claims that the venue encouraged him to drink more than he usually would bygiving him over thirteen free drinks. In court, Slick Willie’s was charged and found guilty in acivil lawsuit and required to pay extensive damages. However, the establishment appealed thedecision. A new ruling was issued. Since Slick Willie’s had properly trained their bartendersaccording to Texas State workshops, the company was found innocent of all charges. All legalblame, then, was placed upon the bartender himself in a separate lawsuit. (“Texas Law”) Another case dealing with Dram Shop Laws, particularly in Pennsylvania was Rivera v.Timblin. The incident took place in Lancaster County on March 11, 2008. Sarah Timblin hadbeen drinking at a local bar, Doc Holliday’s from about 10-11pm. After that, she drove toanother bar, The Brickyard Sports Bar and Grille. She left that bar at about 2 a.m. At whichpoint, she attempted to drive home. However, on her way, she collided head-on with a car due toher drunkenness. In the other car were three middle-aged men. All three men died, and the men’swidows sued both restaurants for providing Timblin with more alcohol although she was clearlyintoxicated. The case was settled out of court; however, the bars had to pay $343,000 to eachdeceased man’s family. Since then, Doc Holliday’s was forced to go out of business. (Scott) If we continue serving drinks that are too strong at our bar, it could cause The Cat’sMeow to lose our liquor license. Last year, we sold about $20,000 in alcohol. If our drink salesare halted because we aren’t complying with ABC codes, our business would lose that income.This isn’t including the consequences that a lawsuit may bring. If we were to be sued under thepremise Dram Shop Laws, legal settlements could cost us up to $1 million dollars. This doesn’tinclude fees for paying lawyers. Also, the cost of our business’s damaged reputation isinestimable. If anyone at The Cat’s Meow is caught breaking alcohol codes, the bartender whoserved the drinks and overall company could all be sued for damages in a lawsuit. Losing ourliquor license could cripple profits so much that the business may have to shut down.Serving drinks with too much alcohol in them is illegal and could have disastrous financial andlegal consequences, as I described earlier. Therefore, we should attempt to prevent this problemfrom happening again. In addition, we should have protective policies in place that could thwart
The Cat’s Meowany legal issues that may arise if a future bartender does fail to comply with Alcohol BeverageControl policy. In order to better our business, I suggest three elements of action.The Cat’s Meow should: 1. Implement a comprehensive training system for our bartenders in compliance with ABC rules. Implementing a training system could benefit our business in many ways. Often, alcoholmakes situations blurry for both the server and the consumer. Therefore, our bartenders shouldbecome educated in serving alcohol. The bartenders will better realize the consequencesassociated with serving drinks with too high of an alcohol content. They will learn how toproperly card patrons. They will also learn the warning signs that are visible when someone istoo drunk to be served more alcoholic beverages. Our bartenders will be instructed inPennsylvania liquor law before they are allowed to work via workbooks that are provided by thestate of Pennsylvania. The employees will also attend “refresher” courses with the managerevery three months. The workbooks will cost $10 a piece, but they are reusable. I suggest that weinitially purchase 5 to keep on hand at the bar and also to provide for our employees.Therefore,this system will cause our bartenders to be more professional, cautious, and aware. 2. Conduct regular spot checks, ensuring that our employees are complying with all standard liquor policies. Conducting regular spot checks is a cost-effective way to “self-check” our employees. In thesame way the Alcohol Beverage Control has undercover customers, we should employ a randomcheck once a month. The process is simple. We choose an employee’s family member or friendto work as an undercover agent for the night. This agent must be someone that the rest of theworkers will not recognize. In exchange for free admission to the show, that agent will order anillegal drink or present an invalid license. If we run spot checks once a month, this would onlycost us $10/month- the cost of a ticket. Depending on how the bartender handles the situationwill let us know if we need to better train our employees. 3. Purchase liquor liability insurance that would cover our business in case any legal mishaps take place as a result of serving alcohol. Although we will be properly training our employees, it is uncertain that employees willalways follow protocol. Since we cannot supervise their every move, we should invest in liquorliability insurance. Liquor liability insurance protects our business if we were to be sued underthe Dram Act. A legal issue could hurt the business financially, but more importantly tarnish ourreputation. Liquor liability insurance ensures that we cannot be sued. Settlements will be madeout of court, and the coverage can go up to $1 million. The insurance typically costs about$5000per year. However, the protection it would provide for The Cat’s Meow is priceless.
The Cat’s Meow In all, an effective solution to our problem would cost approximately $5,170 total. However,it would certainly be worth it to keep our customers, employees, and reputation safe. Theconsequences of non-compliance with Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws could be detrimental toour business. The Cats Meow prides itself on being a classy, fun, and safe. If we continue toallow our bartenders to remain ignorant to regulations, we are not fulfilling our business mission.In fact, we are putting each of our employees and customers at risk for legal damages, physicalinjuries, and emotional trauma. Luckily, our issue can be fixed through a few simple, relativelyeconomical resolutions. I strongly urge you to take advantage of the solutions that have beenpresented in this report. It will ultimately allow us to make more profits and provide ourcustomers with a more enjoyable experience.
The Cat’s Meow SourcesCullen, Joseph. "Pennsylvania Dram Shop Law."Pennsylvania Law Monitor. Stark & Stark Attorneys at Law, 09 Sep 2010. Web. 8 Apr 2012. <http://palawblog.stark- stark.com/2010/09/articles/personal-injury/pennsylvania-dram-shop-law/>.Fairfield, Kathy. Personal Interview. 4 April 2012.Scott, Jeannette. "Widows Sue Over Losses In Crash." Lancaster Online [Lancaster County, PA] 14 Jun 2009, Weekend ed..Web. 8 Apr. 2012. <http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/238810_Widows-sue-over-losses-in- crash.html>."Slick Willie Dram Shop Act Case."Texas Law. Texas State Court, 28 Mar 2008. Web. 8 Apr 2012. <http://www.texas-opinions.com/08-20281-Inc-v-Parker-Tex-2008-by-Jefferson- Dram-Shop-Act-Suit.html>.