5 Common Liability Risks that Bar and Restaurant Owners Face

Written By Charlotte Insurance on April 24, 2018. It has 0 comments.

Wouldn’t it be nice if every night was like a scene out of Cheers? You get plenty of new customers and the regulars come in, sit in their same seats, order their same drinks, and any problems wrap up nicely in less than 30 minutes. No one drinks too much or causes problems that can’t be easily solved.

In real life, people drink too much, try to get away with something they shouldn’t, and get into accidents. When you’re the one serving the alcohol, your bar or restaurant can be found liable for what happens after a customer starts drinking. While it shouldn’t scare you off from keeping your doors open every night, liability risks aren’t something to take lightly either. Here are five common liabilities that you face as the owner of a bar or restaurant.


All it takes is one server or bartender not paying close enough attention or deciding they don’t need to card customers. The worst case scenario is that an underage drinker gets into an accident that leads to someone’s death. Best case scenario, they get sick, feel miserable, and get caught. In any scenario, you could be still held liable for what happens because your establishment illegally served alcohol.


Everyone should be responsible for their own actions. The reality is that when your bar or restaurant serves the drinks — and doesn’t stop serving them — that leads to a DUI related accident, you could be found liable for the injuries and damage.


This isn’t the Wild West, and you’re not running a saloon, but multiple intoxicated patrons can still get into a fight, especially if their team loses or tempers flare for any other reason. Your bar or restaurant could be named in a lawsuit because you served the drinks, didn’t break up the fight, or for multiple other reasons that lead to injury and property damage.


Got a rowdy and intoxicated customer? Are they bumping into people or thrashing around in the bar? Maybe they don’t sue you when they injure themselves, but what about another patron who was an innocent bystander in the moment? Again, your bar or restaurant served the drinks and didn’t deal with the patron fast enough, so a third party who suffers injury or damage could name you in a lawsuit.


Even a small amount of smoke or the sound of the fire alarm can cause a panic among your customers. On a busy night, a rushed stampede to the exit could easily lead to tragedy. All exits must be clearly labeled and accessible. One set of doors to get people out isn’t enough, and nothing should block the exits. Even if the cause of the fire isn’t your fault, any accidents that result, especially if the exits were blocked, could easily get you sued.


You can’t stop lawsuits from happening, and you can’t eliminate all liabilities, but you can protect yourself and your business. Make sure your bar or restaurant has written policies that you and your staff follow. Strong policies can reduce your risks, and good insurance protection can cover you when things go wrong.

  • Check your general liability insurance coverage to make sure you have a robust policy.
  • Do the same with your liquor liability policy. Whenever possible, buy as much insurance as you can afford.
  • Add an umbrella policy for any claim that exceeds your liability limits. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of claim, but it shouldn’t bankrupt you.

Need to go over your insurance coverage? Not sure you have enough liability protection? Contact Charlotte Insurance today so we can help you protect your bar or restaurant.

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