Green Day: Preparing Restaurants and Bars for St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

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In Chicago, St. Patrick’s Day is the unofficial introduction to spring. With everything from rivers to beer dyed green, the holiday is a huge producer of the kind of green restaurants and bars love the most: cold, hard cash.

With the St. Patrick’s Day parade falling on a Saturday, the streets of Chicago will be filled with thousands of revelers, all looking for a great time. In anticipation of the big party, hospitality operators should prepare by reviewing some key pointers with their personnel:

It takes a village. Make sure that you are well staffed. Customers looking to hop from bar to bar will grow cranky if a lack of servers and bartenders make them endure long service waits. Also make sure that you have more than adequate security staff on hand to resolve any crowding or intoxication problems throughout the day.

Keep an eye out. Do not admit patrons into your establishment if they already appear to be intoxicated. You always maintain the right to refuse service for good cause; this is the time to enforce that right so that you do not face liability for any negligent or intentional torts committed by inebriated guests. Additionally, be absolutely certain that your bouncers and servers are strict when checking identification, either at entry or at point of sale of alcohol. Serving alcohol to underage citizens is one of the biggest business risks for any restaurant or bar. Ensuring that all those who choose to drink are 21 and older is an easy way to avoid major hassles.

Dram it. The Illinois Liquor Control Act, also known as the Dram Shop Act, places liability on restaurants and bars if someone who became intoxicated in their establishment commits a tort. A good way to protect yourself: train your staff to cease service to visibly intoxicated guests. Offer plenty of water to all guests – on sunny days, good hydration can help stave off non-alcohol risks such as sun stroke. If your staff sees someone who has been drinking prepare to drive, offer to hail a taxi for that guest. Not only is doing so helpful to avoid the type of incidents that can implicate the Dram Shop Act, but looking out for all members of your community is the right thing to do.

Upsell. Take advantage of the day and offer Irish food specials. Keep plenty of food on hand so that patrons can sop up some of the beer and whiskey with potatoes and corned beef. Consider offering food specials to help offset the costs of whatever additional staff you may need on duty. Create special themed cocktails, and offer delicious non-alcoholic versions for designated drivers and others who wish not to imbibe.

Stay in house. Do not let your customers leave your establishment with alcoholic beverages. This will help avoid violations of open container laws, at which point a customer could point the finger at you for not keeping watch. If your license includes an outdoor patio, patrons may drink on the patio but still cannot leave the premises with open alcohol.

Have a happy day. Be cognizant of the Illinois Happy Hour Law, which says that serving happy hour drink deals is illegal. If you are changing the price of a certain drink, the different price must be in effect for the entire day.

License to thrill. Confirm that all of your licenses are active and updated. This includes basics like your licenses to serve alcohol or operate an outdoor patio. If you plan on having live entertainment, make sure that you have a Public Place of Amusement (PPA) license. Failure to comply with regulations regarding PPAs can lead to a $10,000 fine and/or immediate closure. To determine whether you need a PPA license, check the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) Web site, but keep in mind: if you are charging a cover, you need a PPA license. Finally, the prospect of a blowout party is a good reason to check that your business liability insurance and compliance with relevant fire codes is up to date.

Don’t cop out. If you need assistance from the police, emergency medical technicians or other authorities to take care of any problems, don’t hesitate to call. As long as you have prepared, you have nothing to worry about by involving the authorities.  They too are responsible for keeping your customers safe.

St. Patrick’s Day should be a day of fun for your customers, and it should also be a successful day of business for your bar and/or restaurant.  Follow the above rules and it will be a win-win. If you have any more questions on how to prepare for St. Patrick’s Day, please call our experienced hospitality attorneys at (312) 266-2221 and one of our attorneys will be available to assist you.

Image courtesy of artur84/

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