NJ Dram Shop Laws: What Bar Owners Need to Know
Dram shop laws clarify the liability assumed by vendors who serve alcohol if a person who became intoxicated in their establishment causes injury or damage to persons or property.
These laws vary from state to state, and New Jersey bar owners should be keenly aware of their responsibilities in preventing intoxication-related damage by their patrons. Armed with the facts and understanding of this law, business owners can implement policies and staff training that decrease the likelihood that a violation will occur.
What is New Jersey's Dram Shop Law?
New Jersey's dram shop law specifies two key grounds for liability when a patron becomes intoxicated and causes damage.
The first is when the vendor serves or continues to serve someone who is visibly intoxicated. We have all seen it happen. The more intoxicated someone gets, the more they want to drink, and the more demanding they get about continuing to be served. It can be difficult for the bartender or server to manage these situations, as the intoxicated person may become unruly or aggressive.
The second is when the vendor serves alcohol to an underage person. While ID checking is standard practice at any reputable establishment, it is not the end of the story when it comes to preventing underage drinking. Fake IDs and slick ordering tactics are just some of the ways people under 21 still manage to be served in bars in New Jersey.
The stakes are high for young people who get caught, but they are higher for those who serve them as well. Not only are establishments liable for an injury caused to a third party injured by an intoxicated minor that an establishment served, but the intoxicated minor can also sue the establishment if they are injured.
What is my exposure if the Dram Shop Law is violated at my NJ bar?
Vendors found liable under Dram Shop Law in NJ can be subject to both compensatory and punitive damages for injury or destruction of property caused by an overserved or underage patron.
Compensatory damages are the costs associated with treatment or medical care, lost wages because the injured person was out of work, costs to restore damaged property and pain and suffering. Punitive damages reflect the broader danger the vendor's negligence posed to society and impose penalties that are designed to deter future negligence over and above the compensatory damages to victims.
How can I protect my business from Dram Shop Law violations?
There are definite measures you can take to help prevent Dram Shop Law violations and related exposure. As a bar owner, you should ensure that you and any of your staff are knowledgeable about this law as a key first step.
Staff should be trained to know the signs of intoxication and steps to take when someone appears to be intoxicated or is demanding further service. Training should also be done on how to spot a fake ID and ways that underage people may attempt to be served.
If you find yourself facing a Dram Shop Law violation, the Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC is here to help. Our business law firm protects the interests of bars and other establishments in and around Mercer County, New Jersey. Contact us today to get the strong defense you and your business deserve.
The Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC
is owned and operated by H. Benjamin Sharlin and serves all of Mercer County, New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Mr. Sharlin is a bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney who vigorously represents the interests of all his clients.
Call (609) 585-0606 or click the button below to schedule and appointment