Do bar staff owe you a ‘duty of care’?

This article was published on: 10/11/16

When you are out at the pub, in a bar or a club, it is actually illegal for you to be served if you are deemed “drunk”. This rule has caused a lot of problems in the past due to it being ambiguous and the restraints of monitoring hundreds of drinkers in one place. However, what does it  mean if you had an accident after being served too much alcohol? Are you completely at fault?

2003 Licensing act

In 2003, a law was introduced which made it illegal for bars to sell alcohol to people who were deemed to be drunk or intoxicated. Offenders caught doing so were told they would face a fine of around £1,000 if they did. That law, however, has barely seen any prosecutions since its inception.

If you travel into your local town centre on a Friday and Saturday night, you are very likely to see a mixture of revellers enjoying their weekend with alcohol. Many of these going from bar to bar, would also be likely to be adjudged as “drunk” by the majority of people.

If this is the case, it is surprising then that thousands of people aren’t being thrown out of bars every weekend, with bars being empty due to drunks being ineligible to be sold more. In fact, in 2010 there were recorded to be just 3 prosecutions in total during the entire year.

Who is responsible?

One of the biggest deterrents for police enforcing the law is that when working a regular evening, pub, bar and club staff will often meet hundreds of clients, working to time pressures to serve everybody waiting. While they are likely to not serve a customer if they are clearly struggling to use their cognitive functions, it is hard judge on just ordering a drink as to how drunk a customer is.

It is also argued that even in a quiet pub, there may still be upwards of 20 or so customers, all of whom would be impossible to control if their lives were the responsibility of the bar staff.

In some extreme cases, where it is evidently clear a member of the public is drunk, the bar staff would be expected to stop serving them and possibly encourage the customer to get a taxi home. Even if it came to light that the intoxicated patron had stated they intended to drive home while drunk, due to handling a large number of clients in a night, it is not expected that a member of the bar staff owes that person a duty to stop them making a foolish mistake.

Occupier’s liability instances

Duty of care is a part of law, which can be disputed on a personal or professional basis. Do people nearby owe you a duty of care to help you avoid injury? Do professionals providing you a service owe a duty of care to protect you?

Occupier’s liability is more straightforward. When inside premises owned by another person, they are responsible for the safety of those inside and should take all precautions to keep those inside safe. This is why we have wet floor signs, safety warnings and procedures to ensure injuries don’t happen. When these systems fail or aren’t followed, any injury caused is liable to the owner of the property.

In a pub for example there should not be any articles on the wall that are not secure, the carpets should not provide a tripping risk, fire doors should not be locked and there should be no obstructions that pose a threat to occupants.


We regularly see cases involving slips, trips, falls and other injuries which have been caused due to the negligence of staff or owners of an establishment (including pubs, shops, museums and restaurants). If you have suffered an injury like this at any owned location, you can get in touch with one of our experts on 01695 722 222 for free, impartial advice.

Alternatively you can begin a claim right away using our online claim form here. We operate using a ‘no win no fee’ service which ensures even if your claim is unsuccessful, you won’t have to pay a penny. So with no risk in starting a claim, get in touch today to see what our experienced team can do for you.

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