New South Carolina law holds bars and restaurants accountable for over-serving customers

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – Bartenders in South Carolina will think twice about over-serving a customer, now that a new law will hold them accountable if that person gets behind the wheel.

The Dram Shop Law went into effect on July 1st.

That means that any place that serves alcohol is now required by law to have a million-dollar liability insurance policy.

Dram shop is a term used to refer to bars, taverns or places where alcoholic drinks are sold.

While some business owners have mixed feelings about the new bill, others WJBF NewsChannel 6 spoke to, off camera, didn’t even know about it.

If you’re stumbling into the Cork & Bull for a drink, there’s a good chance the bartender won’t serve you.

Mark Crisp has run the pub in Aiken for 10 years.

The business owner says he’s always had liability insurance that’s well over the newly required million-dollar policy.

He says the law levels the playing field for bars owners, because establishments with big liability insurance policies aren’t a target anymore.

“An example would be, where an individual goes to several different bars during the evening,” Crisp told WJBF NewsChannel 6. “They come here already intoxicated. By the time, you know that they are intoxicated, you cut them off, and try to get them a ride. I pay for cabs, do whatever. However, if something should happen they go to the individual they know has the best insurance.”

The point of the Dram Shop Law is to make sure servers and bartenders can spot when a person is clearly intoxicated and prevent them from getting behind the wheel.

“I mean, because look if they see them over drunk, they are the ones that are giving them to them. So they tell them like hey dude, I’m cutting your ticket that could easily stop them,” said law supporter Deamour Koonce.

However, the Cork & Bull staff already has extensive training to spot drunk customers.

“I would not hope that this legislation would make individuals think that they are not individually responsible, because they can go out and drink, and hold the bars accountable.” Crisp said.

While most people agree it’s a good move for South Carolina, bar owners are left cashing out big money for liability policies.

“The cost is outrageous for insurance anyway,” said Crisp. “I mean, I pay a tremendous amount of money each year and everybody does in this industry, that’s responsible.”

Driving under the influence in South Carolina is a felony.

You could end up behind bars for up to 60 days and you could be fined anywhere from $400 to $6,500 dollars.

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