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Cater Waiters pouring wine at a private dinner: liability? Caterers Corner: Cater Waiters pouring wine at a private dinner: liability?
By Chefjoannam (Chefjoannam) on Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 06:43 am: Edit

I had a couple attorney friends look over my Letter of Agreement when I was composing it, and they helped me draft the section that says that my servers don't handle alcohol. The worst-case-scenario, if you will, is that once one of my employees poured alcohol into someone's glass, that guest was "served". If someone drank too much, then got in an accident, that guest could have a case to sue me/my company.

Of course, my argument was "how much wine could someone drink with dinner", and my vigilant friends reminded me that I can't know what they drank before dinner, and I won't know what they drank after dinner, but the fact that my employee poured them an alcoholic beverage (wine) opens me up to legal liability.

I have always used the line, "my insurance doesn't cover me for handling alcohol" which I don't even know if that's true ;-) but I've explained the "no insurance" thing to my clients, and all of them have said no problem, and poured their own wines at dinner.

Now... I have a Wonderful New Client who wants my servers to pour her (very old and very expensive) wines at her dinners. ACK! They poured at her first dinner, and now she wants me back in 2 weeks for another big, fancy dinner, and I want to address this now before it gets out of hand.

What do you all do about alcohol? I'm not talking about a bartender serving hard liquor, I'm specifically talking about my servers opening/pouring the wines that my clients have purchased. How much trouble can I get into? Should I even be worried?

I'd hate to offend her by saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, that wasn't supposed to happen; my employees weren't supposed to pour wine, see, it's right here, in my Letter of Agreement, which you signed, so it's all a mistake, ha ha, ha ha...."

...because no matter how nicely I say it, it's going to come off sounding like "I don't want to get sued when your drunk friends plow through fences and run over puppies."

and, by the way, she's an attorney :-O

Anyone got any sage advice? Can I even ask for sage advice in a culinary forum without getting herb-related jokes?

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Saturday, February 19, 2005 - 02:33 pm: Edit

Don't know much about the liquor laws in L.A., but don't you or your staff reserve the right to refuse alcohol to anyone you deem to be drunk? Does the Host/ess bear any responsibility when he/she clearly sees an inebriated guest leave the home with car keys dangling in his hand?

Perhaps you could discuss with your client and have it noted in the contract to refuse alcohol to any guests you deem inebriated, but your rear is still covered when you can pour the first glasses of wine for your client.

Don't want to tell any herb-related jokes, Vancouver is full of "herbalists"....

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 01:02 pm: Edit

Just have her sign a waiver that it is her wine and she is liable for the liability in case of any incidents.
It should not be a problem if you did not provide the wine.

By Chefjoannam (Chefjoannam) on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 01:07 pm: Edit

that's excellent. That may just be something I work into the Letter of Agreement, as another spot for an initial.

Right now, they initial by the part that says "if you cancel, I'm charging you anyway" and the part that says "if payment is late, there's a late fee and interest"

Nobody's ever balked at my agreement, in fact, I think they get the impression that its more professional.

Thanks, Chef Manny!!

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Monday, February 28, 2005 - 01:36 pm: Edit

You are welcome, anytime!

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