Hosting a Kentucky Derby party Saturday? Make sure your guests make it to the winner’s circle. It’s both your social and legal responsibility to look out for guests who may have had one too many mint juleps. Social host liability or dram shop laws (active in 43 states) assign varying levels of responsibility to a host who provides alcohol. If one of your guests drinks too much and causes property damage or physical injury, you could be held liable.
While Derby tradition may include bourbon and branch water or mint juleps, make safety your tradition. Drunken driving accounts for an average of 10,000 deaths a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Help your guests avoid the risk of injuring themselves, others, and property this year.
Here are some ways to reduce risk on race day:
Cocktails on the porch
If you hold your party at home, familiarize yourself with the rules. Check liquor liability laws in your state to find out how exactly you are liable. Also, check your home insurance policy to make sure you have enough liability coverage should something go wrong. Remember, the law always prohibits providing alcohol to minors.
Leave the racing to the horses. As the host, limit your intake so that you can react quickly in an emergency situation and better monitor your guests. In addition, avoid drinking games that could pressure others to over-imbibe.
Serve up safety
A Derby host is a gracious host, but be careful not to automatically refill every glass with an alcoholic drink. If you do, guests could fail to recognize how much they drink and underestimate their intake. You can help by serving non-alcoholic beverages (sweet tea and lemonade, anyone?) and encouraging your guests to alternate. Serve food as well: Chicken wings, crawfish, Kentucky burgoo (a tasty stew), ribs, hot browns, or even sliders can help fill guests up.
Leave it to the pros
No one but professional jockeys enters the racetrack during a race, so why would it be different with bartenders? If you feel uncomfortable limiting your guests’ alcohol intake, hire a professional to do it for you. A professional bartender will be able to recognize the signs of intoxication and limit your guests. Something else to leave to the pros? Transportation. Encourage your guests to designate a driver when they arrive or insist they call a cab when they leave. Drunken or drowsy driving is too big a risk for everyone.
The grand takeaway? Take your social host responsibility seriously this Derby day, and you and your guests can all be winners. Don’t gamble with the safety of your guests and others by encouraging your guests to over-imbibe. If you do, you could lose much more than gambling money.