Bars and nightclubs across Massachusetts are starting to re-open as the pandemic restrictions are gradually reduced. Bars will be allowed to re-open for Memorial Day weekend, and nightclubs will be able to open up on August 1. That is certainly something a lot of people will be excited about, and some may get a bit carried away with the opportunity to be out drinking again with their friends. Bars and nightclubs may be reluctant to “shut off” any customers after losing several months’ worth of sales when the establishments were closed.
Massachusetts law puts an obligation on establishments that are licensed to serve alcohol to make sure things do not get out of hand. It is illegal for a bar to serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, or to serve alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. A bar that violates these laws runs the risk of having their license to serve alcohol suspended or even revoked.
In addition, a bar or nightclub that serves a minor or an intoxicated person can be held liable for damages caused by the minor or the intoxicated person. We have successfully brought many claims over the years against bars, restaurants, and night clubs that have negligently served alcohol to a minor, or to people who were already intoxicated. Most often, these claims are made on behalf of drivers, passengers or pedestrians who have been hit by a drunk driver, but these claims can succeed in other contexts as well, such as a fellow customer who is assaulted by an intoxicated person, a police officer who is injured in the course of arresting a drunk and disorderly person at a bar, or even a minor who was allowed to drink at a bar and then was injured in a crash.
To succeed in these claims, it is critically important to act quickly to preserve important evidence. We need access to credit card receipts showing how many drinks, and what kind of drinks, were sold to the drunk patron or his party. Many bars and nightclubs have security cameras that record both the inside and the outside of the establishment, which can be important evidence to show that a customer was served an excessive number of drinks or was served after he or she became visibly intoxicated. This critical evidence is often only preserved for a limited amount of time. We also need to quickly identify witnesses such as servers or people who were with the intoxicated or underage patron. Once a client contacts us about a potential claim, we immediately send a certified letter to the bar or nightclub demanding that they preserve any evidence such as credit card receipts and surveillance video. If they fail to do so, there will be an assumption that any evidence the bar failed to preserve would have been detrimental to their case, but only if the evidence is lost or destroyed after the bar receives our letter demanding they preserve the evidence.
If you or anyone you know is injured as a result of over-service of alcohol by a bar or restaurant, or service of alcohol to a minor, it is important to contact us right away in order to preserve critical evidence and pursue compensation from the bar or restaurant that profited from the sale of alcohol to someone who should not have been served.