Liquor Liability for Country Clubs

Image of country clubs Country clubs are fun, relaxing places to enjoy recreational activities. People flock to the classy golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts, and other facilities to escape the stress of their everyday lives. However, owning a country club can be a whole different experience. There are a myriad of duties and potential dangers to be navigated, including liability. It’s a misconception that bars, liquor stores, and restaurants are the only establishments which require liquor liability coverage. In reality, any business which serves alcohol should carry liquor liability coverage—including country clubs.

Understanding Liquor Liability

There are two separate legal theories that handle a situation in which a personal injury is caused by someone who is over-served an alcoholic beverage. The two categories of liability are known as “Social Host” (which is not applicable to country clubs) and “Dram Shop Liability.” The second, “Dram Shop Liability” deals with the liability and legal duties of establishments such as restaurants, bars, country clubs, etc., while serving alcohol.

What is Dram Shop Liability?

The term “dram” is from old English Law, and refers to a small unit of alcohol sold individually, hence the name “Dram Shop.” When patrons or customers are over-served alcohol, the actions they take while intoxicated can result in an injury to third parties (or to themselves). The most common example of this is drunk driving. If a patron is over-served alcohol and injures someone as a result, the blame will eventually find its way back to the establishment which served them.

Responsibilities of the Establishment

The law is clear on serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. According to MA State law, “No alcoholic beverage shall be sold or delivered on any premises licensed under this chapter to an intoxicated person.” Each manager, server, bartender, and member of the wait staff is responsible for observing the intoxication level of their patrons. Avoiding over-serving is the best way to protect yourself from liability. There are several damages which can be awarded as a result of over-serving. Below is a list of the more common ones:

  • Health and medical expenses
  • Loss of income and ability to earn
  • Disability
  • Scarring
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Wrongful death (A wrongful death suit can include damages for loss of companionship, among other things.)

What is Social Host Liability?

By way of explanation, the other type of liquor liability is known as “Social Host Liability”, and is concerned with the liability assigned to private individuals or homeowners who negligently serve alcohol on their property. Intoxication resulting in an injury to a third party (or self) is a serious matter, which you can read more about here.

It’s important to understand what liquor liability is and how to protect yourself. If you have any questions about your insurance policy or other country club coverages you should carry, please contact the H&K Insurance Agency. We’ll help get your country club fully insured and help you reduce potential risks to your business.

Brian began working at H&K Insurance Agency in 1992. He is a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), and an exceptionally qualified insurance professional helping clients protect their assets, and create future financial security in all areas of insurance. Brian is a sponsor of The New England Club Managers Association and specializes in helping golf clubs manage risk by creating insurance plans to protect clubs and their members. Brian oversees H&K’s regular donations to charitable organizations at both local and national levels, and runs seminars for local communities on how to protect their assets with insurance contracts.


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