Dear Good Somm Bad Somm,
I had a table of diners the other night and the host kept ordering big, big bottles of Bordeaux and Screaming Eagle at nearly $3000 each. By the end of dinner the host was clearly intoxicated but still continued to order more. What do you do when someone ordering very expensive wine is over served?
When to Say When
Dear When to Say When,
Although it may seem like a grey area to you, it should be very black and white. Should your guests be overserved and be involved in an alcohol related accident – YOU, as the sommelier, are liable for being negligent to your customer and over serving them.
In the legal context, it is considered reckless if you know that your guest is visibly intoxicated but choose to serve them anyway. And in this case, you can be sued under the dram shop law. In some states, if a licensed establishment chooses to serve a guest despite evidence that they are clearly intoxicated, some state laws can hold you accountable for injury or accident that may arise as a result.
Once you see your guest showing physical signs of intoxication, you should just stop serving alcohol to them. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Dear When to Say When,
You know, for the most part if someone is acting like a jerk in the dining room, I'm the first one to cut him or her off. If a guest is being obnoxious or loud, or disruptive to the other diners, I'm the first one to say: Let's dial it back a bit here.
However... due to the fact that mine is a commission-based job, it can get complicated. I do have a very short list of intoxication signs or "red flags" that may get a guy cut off EVEN IF he is ordering $3,000 bottles of Bordeaux or Screaming Eagle in my restaurant.
Here is that short list of things:
Did you miss it?
You did! Because there is NO LIST! Because there is virtually NOTHING one can do to make me cut a guy off if he just ordered another $3000 bottle of wine. He could stand up in the middle of the dinning room, drunk as a skunk, and scream about the Illuminati Conspiracy, melting ice caps, rigged NBA finals... Who cares??? I am getting that revenue for my wine program.
Maybe if I walked up to the guest and said: Are you enjoying your Screaming Eagle? And the guy opened his mouth to answer and a giant wave of red wine and regurgitated red meat and vegetables from dinner came projecting out of his gut onto the center of his dining table would I consider cutting him off. But even then I would pause.
I guess nothing short of a guy crapping his pants would warrant a cut off. But even in that case I might discretely escort the gentleman to the rest room, clean him up, wrap him in a Chef's Apron and drag his naked-ass back to the dining room for a glass of D'Yquem with dessert then pour him into a cab.