Liquor authority agents conduct inspections of licensed businesses. Here are common violations and penalties.
A visit from the liquor authority may be a stressful experience for a business that provides alcohol-related services, but it doesn’t have to be! The liquor authority works to make sure that alcohol consumption is done responsibly — which should be the priority of your establishment as well. Liquor authority agents are there to help you and your business ensure that customers enjoy their drinks, while making the safety of staff, customers and the general public the top priority.
An inspection doesn’t have to be stressful, especially if your business is following the laws and regulations related to alcohol service in your area. Learn more about the role of the liquor authority, and what they look for during an inspection.
What does the liquor authority do?
Each state has its own governing liquor authority, also known as the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Department, that regulates the production, sale and distribution of alcohol.
Liquor authority agents enforce the state’s alcohol related laws and regulations, provide liquor licenses to businesses, conduct inspections and address any issues related to alcohol service.
When does the liquor authority conduct inspections?
Liquor authority agents are permitted to visit any licensed business for the purposes of conducting audits and inspections at any time during the establishment’s business hours. They do not need to have probable cause or a warrant to conduct an investigation.
What do liquor authority agents look for?
Inspections are done to ensure licensed businesses are following alcohol service laws. These laws differ by state, so be sure that you know and are observing the alcohol service laws in your area. Some examples of what a liquor authority agent may check:
- the business has the correct, up-to-date licenses and permits
- proper documentation is kept for business operations such as invoices, order sheets, delivery records and incident records
- alcohol servers have their Alcohol Server Certificate, if applicable
- the business is following local health and safety regulations, including building codes, for all areas of the business, including the bar and front-of-house area, the back room, storage rooms, cabinets and more
What are common alcohol service law violations?
Here are some common alcohol service law violations that can lead to disciplinary action. Note that these are just some examples and do not encompass all alcohol service laws. Check with your state’s ABC Department, along with local agencies for towns and counties, if you are not familiar with the laws in your area.
- Selling alcohol to minors: It is against the law to sell or serve alcohol to anyone under 21 years old.
- Selling/serving alcohol to intoxicated people: It’s an alcohol server’s responsibility to monitor their customers for signs of intoxication. They must stop or refuse service once someone is visibly intoxicated.
- Selling alcohol outside of permitted hours: The ABC determines the hours that alcohol is permitted to be served and sold, and a business’s liquor license will also outline the permitted hours of alcohol service.
- Failing to adhere to business operation conditions outlined in the liquor license: the type of liquor license your business has determines what, where, when, how and how much alcohol you can sell. For example, having a beer and wine license means you can’t sell liquor.
- Providing drink specials: In some states, businesses are not permitted to offer drink specials based on sex (e.g. “ladies’ nights”).
What are the consequences of getting a violation?
It depends on the violation. For example, alcohol servers not having their Alcohol Server Certificate if it is required can lead to administrative penalties for the business. But if a business is caught selling alcohol to minors, the business can be charged with a misdemeanor crime and individuals may even face jail time. Disciplinary action may include:
- liquor license suspension or revocation
- criminal charges
- jail sentence
Interfering with a liquor authority inspection is grounds for arrest and license revocation. The liquor authority works directly with local law enforcement to address alcohol-related incidents.
The best way to avoid disciplinary action is to make sure your business is following all alcohol service laws. Ensure that your business has the correct licenses and permits to provide alcohol service and that everyone on staff is following the rules and regulations in your state.
Userve’s Alcohol Server Course provides the training an alcohol server needs to understand the role of the liquor authority, along with their own legal responsibilities when it comes to alcohol service. Rest easy knowing alcohol servers, bartenders and sellers in your establishment have the knowledge to serve responsibly when they train with Userve!