The lesson? "The only way to be totally protected is not to serve alcohol," Madden says. If you do, put safeguards in place to keep guests from driving under the influence and to show a court you did your best. Some tips:
- Make sure you're adequately insured, whether through your regular policy, a single-event policy or the caterer's policy.
- Don't offer open beer taps, and don't put out bottles so guests can mix their own drinks. Hire a professional bartender with enough experience to know when someone's getting drunk and mention it to the host.
- Don't have servers offering drinks from trays. Guests should have to come to the bar so the bartender can see how they're acting. Tell the bartender not to serve guests who've had too much.
- Consider offering one or two drink tickets per guest, with more available on a cash basis. People drink less if they have to pay for it.
- Serve lots of food, soft drinks and coffee.
- Have someone keep an eye on guests--especially those who have drinks brought to them--and point out any problems to the host.
- Watch everyone on the way out. Find out who's driving and whether the driver is sober. As your holiday gift to the community, have vans or taxis available to take home those not in shape to drive.
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