Signs of Intoxication


  • Staggers, sways while attempting to stand still; holding on to bar, chair, etc.
  • Loss of train of thought (stops talking in mid-sentence)
  • Stands with feet wide apart for balance.
  • Leans against structure for support.
  • Fumbles with wallet or money.
  • Slurred speech or speaking very slowly and deliberately
  • Falls off a stool or chair
  • Slurs or trips over words while ordering.

Reduced Judgment / Change in Behavior:

  • Buys rounds for strangers or the house
  • Argues / Annoys employees or other customers
  • Consumes drinks faster than usual, gulps drinks, orders doubles
  • Complains about strength of drink or slowness of service
  • Sudden or unexplained mood changes
  • Bragging
  • Overly friendly
  • Gets more quiet or goes to sleep
  • Becomes overly excited.
  • Speaks loudly and/or profanely (uses foul language).
  • Throws objects.
  • Giggles or laughs for no apparent reason.


  • Eyes glassy, dilated pupils, lack of focus
  • Red or watery eyes.
  • Droopy eyelids or tired appearance.
  • Squints continuously.
  • Closes or covers one eye to remove double vision.


  • Spills drink; misses mouth with glass
  • Unable to pick up money or drops money; unable to count out correct amount for drink
  • Sullen, doesn't want to communicate except to order drinks
  • Slow or deliberate movements.
  • Slow or no response to questions.
  • Slow or no reaction to actions such as spilling a beer on oneself.

Manners & Appearance:

  • Head bobs, eyelids drooping, looks sleepy
  • Frequently rubs hands through face and hair.
  • Sometimes has involuntary eye movement.
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom.
  • Strong, stale odor of alcohol.

Can I refuse service?

  • Yes, as long as you do not discriminate.
  • Do your best not to confuse a disability characteristic with a sign of intoxication.
  • If a patron enters your establishment and they are breaking any laws or they are already inebriated you MUST refuse service.

When should I cut someone off?

  • If they exhibit 2 or more signs of intoxication – you should cut the person off (the generally accepted rule)

How do I cut someone off?

Simple: Let the person know you will not be able to serve them anymore alcohol, and remove any drink(s) in their possession.

You may already know that cutting someone off is generally NOT SIMPLE.

Suggested Statements / Techniques

  • I'd really appreciate it if you don't order another drink.
  • The Liquor and Cannabis Board is (or, the local police are) cracking down and I can't serve you another drink.
  • You're welcome to stay – you can order coffee or food, but I can't serve you another drink (or allow you to keep this drink)
  • I might lose my job (permit or license) if I serve you another drink.
  • Place a glass of water (or cup of coffee) next to their "last" drink. Train your regulars – the glass of water (or cup of coffee) is your way of saying that they will not receive another alcoholic beverage.

Things to keep in mind: When you cut someone off, they may become defensive. You’re no longer dealing with the logical, rational person of several drinks ago, so keep these things in mind.

  • Be courteous but firm, avoid confrontation and don't bargain or back down.
  • Don't make statements that will embarrass or provoke a customer, such as "you're drunk", or "you're eighty-sixed", or "you've had too much".
  • Don't give the customer the impression you know what's best for him/her.
  • Count drinks, but also be aware that new customers may have been drinking elsewhere.
  • Chat briefly with customers to help determine their sobriety. If the intoxicated person is part of a group, suggest to a sober member that the person be taken home (not allowed to drive home).
  • Slow the frequency of service down when a customer orders rapidly.
  • When a customer begins to show signs of intoxication, do not continue to serve weakened (feathered) drinks.

Remember: After telling a customer that you cannot serve him another drink – remove any existing drinks and walk away. It is harder for a person to argue when you're not there.

Some TIPS for management

  1. Establish and follow a policy on refusing service to apparently intoxicated persons.
  2. Make all employees aware of their responsibility for making sure apparently intoxicated persons are not served and are not allowed to possess liquor.
  3. Insure all staff has their required permits.
  4. Owners and managers should back any employee who refuses service, even if the employee's decision is questionable – better to refuse a customer who is not too intoxicated to drive than to turn a drunk loose on the highway.