Having a Party? 11 Ways to Keep Everybody Safe, Sober and Happy (You're Legally Responsible for Drunk Guests)
Why take a chance? Know for sure that your guests are sober as they leave your home.
The details vary by jurisdiction, but the intent of the law in most places across North America holds hosts responsible for the alcohol related actions of their guests.
You want people to have a good time, and you may want (or feel like you have to) to serve alcohol at a party you host, but even when you serve to consenting and legal adults, if they get drunk at your event and go out to hurt themselves or others after the party – you may get sued, or worse, be criminally liable.
And legality aside, the people you invite to a party at your home are likely people you care about, or at least like, and you'd want to keep them safe and sound even if you weren't legally obliged to.
Human nature is human nature though, and people will sometimes overindulge, and since alcohol tends to reduce social responsibility and good judgment, if your guests get drunk, you could have problems.
An ounce of prevention…
Thankfully you can serve all the drinks you want at a party, have a great loosened up shindig and still keep things under control and keep everybody within limits. Here's how you do it.
- Serve alcohol – don’t allow self serve access. Most people won't drink as much if they have to ask for it, and if you are serving the drinks, you can keep tabs on how much everyone has had.
- Don't serve doubles, and in fact serve slightly weakened singles. Nobody will notice if you water the drinks a touch.
- Serve lower alcohol versions. A lightened Spumanti instead of champagne, a champagne and O.J. instead of a straight drink or a light beer instead of a regular - These substitutions can make a great deal of difference.
- Serve drinks with lots of food – alternate rounds of drink service with rounds of food (watch the salty snacks though – they can build an unwanted and counter productive thirst)
- Make sure to offer non alcoholic drinks, and never push alcohol on anyone.
- Plan events at the party - Getting guests involved in activities gives people less chance to sit and only drink.
- Stop serving alcohol, (switch to coffee, for example) well before the very end of a party. Never offer drinks for the road or nightcaps.)
- Don’t allow any sort of drinking games.
- Have the guest room ready and made up for any guest who could use a few hours to sleep it off. It is easier to convince a reluctant house guest to stay if things are all ready set up and look inviting.
- Have designated drivers at the ready – drivers who can work in tandem to get an inebriated guest home in their own car (with another driver following behind for the return journey.)
- Have taxi phone numbers at the ready.
Don’t be shy to put your foot down at the end of the night. If someone is intoxicated and planning to drive, be ready to stop them, and prepared to call the police if necessary. It could save their life, and if they do drive and hurt someone (or themselves) you could end up criminally responsible. If you feel uncertain about your ability to stop certain guests from driving, ask a trusted friend or family member ahead of time to assist you in your duties as host.