Model House Policies

A guide to developing responsible business practices for on-sale licensees.

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Your business is very important. It is valuable to you, your community, and to the State’s economy. You have invested your time, energy and financial resources. Your business offers a place that meets local dining and entertainment needs and provides jobs. And did you know the 92,000alcoholic beverage licenses in California make up about 7% of the State’s businesses? Sales and excise taxes on alcoholic beverages generate over $376 million a year in State revenues!

The best way to protect your valued business is through responsible business practices. Responsible business practices can help reduce your risk of criminal or ABC administrative charges, and civil lawsuits. They also promote profitability and ensure a comfortable and safe environment for customers.

You should document your responsible business practices in the form of written house policies. If you have none, each employee may have his or her own idea about what the rules are, what they mean, and when they should be applied.

This pamphlet will assist you in developing your own house policies. You may want to use our “Model House Policies” or adapt them to fit your needs. In the long term, the responsible business will build a strong and loyal customer base.  The content in this pamphlet are suggestions and does not constitute legal advice by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Guidelines for Writing Policies

  • You may have any company policy that does not conflict with existing laws (for example, no discrimination).
  • It is always good to obtain ideas from your managers and employees when writing new policies. They will be more supportive of policies they helped to create.
  • Make sure policies are clear and specific.
  • Provide all employees with a copy of the policies.
  • To ensure that employees understand their duties, have them sign an Employee Responsibility Statement (see sample on last page). Keep this in each employee’s personnel file.
  • Reinforce policies by giving regular training to employees.
  • Between trainings, hold regular staff meetings. At the meetings, discuss the rules, recent problem situations, and ways to prevent future problems.
  • Advise employees that you will spot check their compliance with the policies. Give them a regular performance review.
  • Reward employees who do a good job.

Remember: Written policies, good communication, and a supportive environment will go a long way toward the success of your business

Example Policy Memo

All Employees
House Policies


  • It is everyone’s job to ensure patrons who are buying or drinking alcohol are at least 21 years of age.
  • We will request proof of age (I.D.) from any patron who appears 30 years of age or younger. To help employees do their job, managers will post the following sign in the business:
  • “NOTICE: Our employees request I.D. from any patron who appears to be under age 30. Thank you for your cooperation.”
  • We have the right to, and will, refuse service to any patron who cannot produce proper I.D.
  • We will know what a real California driver’s license and I.D. card look like.
  • We may accept the following as proof of age:
    • California driver’s license
    • California identification card
    • Military identification
    • Passport
  • We may also accept the following documents as I.D., but only if we know what they look like.
    • Other state-issued driver’s license or state-issued identification card
  • When selling pitchers, we will request an I.D. from each person who receives a glass.
  • We will use a pre-printed age chart as a quick way to figure age. The age chart, which says, “To Buy or Consume Alcohol, You Must Have Been Born on or Before [date],” will be updated daily.
  • We will use separate types of glassware to distinguish alcoholic drinks from non-alcoholic drinks.
  • When an underage patron moves from one station to another, servers will tell each other.
  • If we must refuse service, we will tell a supervisor.

Advertising, Promotions and Pricing

  • We will maintain an atmosphere that promotes socializing. We will provide things to do other than drinking.
  • Advertising materials and campaigns will not use alcohol as the main way to attract patrons.
  • We will not use promotions that encourage intoxication. There will be no drinking contests. We will not advertise, “Buy one drink, get one free”, “two for the price of one”, or “all you can drink.” (These are against the law.)
  • We will not offer free alcohol or sell them below cost. This is against the law.
  • We will not lower alcohol prices to promote sales.
  • There will be no “Happy Hour” because this promotes too much drinking. We will use food or entertainment for cocktail hour specials. For example, we will have a “Hungry Hour.” Appetizers will be free or offered for a low admission price.
  • This brings in patrons and holds down intoxication.
  • We will not promote drink specials to certain groups of people. For example, “Ladies’ Night.” (This is against the law; discrimination.)
  • When we promote a special cocktail, wine or beer, we will offer a comparable non-alcoholic drink. If we promote or list alcohol on a menu or display, we will promote a non-alcoholic drink also.
  • We will promote food and other non-alcoholic items.
  • If we offer free appetizers or snacks, we will offer them to any patron, whether or not the patron buys alcohol.

Drink Service

  • Management and supervisors will support servers’ decisions to stop service to any patron. If they don’t, the server might not act so responsibly in the future.
  • We will discourage intoxication and not serve any person who looks or acts intoxicated, even if they are “ride-sharing” or have a “designated driver.” This includes employees and regular patrons who may “always act that way.”
  • When a patron has been “cut off” in one person’s station, that person will tell other employees.
  • Responsible service techniques may reduce a server’s tips. Therefore, we guarantee the tip to any server who stops service to an obviously intoxicated patron.
  • Drinking alcohol during your shift, after your shift, or at closing time is not allowed. Drinking on the job impairs your ability to perform your duties. You are more likely to make mistakes in judgment such as serving underage or obviously intoxicated patrons. Drinking on the job can cause other employees to assume some of your duties without getting paid for the extra work. This can create bad morale. Also, it is harder for you to tell a patron they are “cut off” when you have been drinking along with that person.
  • We will not assume a patron wants alcohol. Instead of saying, “May I bring you a cocktail?” say, “May I bring you a beverage?”
  • We will promote “alternative beverages.” This is any beverage that can take the place of alcohol. The purpose is for pacing drinking, slowing intoxication, preparing to drive, or offering a beverage choice besides alcohol. Examples are: coffee, juices, mineral water, flavored waters, seltzer, non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beers, wines, and mixed drinks.
  • We will provide and promote “mocktail” non-alcoholic drinks that are similar to popular cocktails.
  • We will know who is getting each drink. We will not bring a drink for anyone who is not present.
  • We will count drinks.
  • We will use measured shots, rather than free pouring to ensure against over pouring. (Shots will be one ounce, rather than 1-1/2 or 2 ounces.)
  • We will not sell more than one drink to a patron at one time.
  • We will not sell pitchers to individual patrons.
  • We will not bring a second drink before the patron has finished the first one.
  • We will discourage the buying of rounds.
  • We will not push drinks.
  • We will slow down service if the patron is ordering or drinking rapidly. We will visit the table less often and avoid the table until all patrons have finished their drinks.
  • At closing time, we will announce, “It’s closing time. We will pick up all drinks in minutes.” We will not announce “last call” because this encourages patrons to gulp drinks before driving. We do not believe in “one more for the road.”
  • Bartenders will follow our standard drink recipes.

Safe Rides

If a patron is too impaired to drive safely, we will persuade the person not to drive, and arrange for a safe ride (Uber, Lyft, taxi). If the patron refuses, employees should advise a supervisor. The supervisor will call the police or sheriff with a description and the license plate number of the car.

We will post a list of “ride sharing” contacts at each bar and hostess station.

We will use the “Designated Driver” Program. The server will ask groups of three or more who the Designated Driver will be. The Designated Driver may receive free non-alcoholic drinks and/or food such as an appetizer or dessert. If the server sees the Designated Driver drinking alcohol, the Designated Driver must pay for all drinks and food he has consumed. “Designated Driver” does not mean that employees may overserve others in the group.

Staff Training

  • All staff will be trained in responsible beverage service.
  • All staff will be continually updated by management (meetings, memos, etc.).
  • We will provide extra training for employees who need practice in serving alcohol.


  • We will promote food during the late afternoon and evening hours. Appetizers will be available in the bar until closing time. We will offer high-protein or fatty foods such as meats and cheeses, which slow the absorption of alcohol. We will avoid salty, crunchy items because they cause patrons to drink more.
  • We will provide rewards to servers for increased food sales.
  • Servers will be rewarded for total sales, including non-alcoholic products.
  • We will promote non-alcoholic drinks with table tents.

Crowd Control and Security

  • We will allow free access to all law enforcement officers. This includes ABC agents, police, and sheriff. (All of whom may be wearing uniforms or plainclothes.)
  • Overcrowding will not be allowed for several reasons. First, it makes us less able to watch our patrons. This can result in sales to minors and drunk patrons, fights, injury, and property damage. Second, patrons may not be able to exit the building during a fire or other crisis.  Third, too many patrons means more mistakes, poorer service, and smaller tips.
  • We will limit our patrons to the Fire Department’s legal limit. During busy times, door people will track the number of people coming in and out of the business.
  • We will have enough employees on duty. This will help us watch beverage sales and patrons. We will advise management when more staff is needed.
  • We will keep patrons from crowding around the bar. We will make sure patrons are able to move freely in hallways, aisles, and common areas.
  • To encourage socializing, we will provide table seating for groups of different sizes, games, and other non-drinking fun. We will keep the lighting from getting too dim and the music from getting too loud. Floor managers will have instant control over all lights, music, audio, and cooling.
  • Patrons are guests in our business. We will not permit loud, unpleasant, or obnoxious behavior.
  • We will not tolerate fighting among patrons. Security or management will ask anyone who is fighting to leave. If needed, security or management will call the police or sheriff for help. We will permanently refuse to admit any chronic problem patron.
  • We will record any serious problem (such as fights, injuries, or vandalism) in our Incident Log for future reference.
  • Security will monitor outside adjacent property to prevent loitering, drinking, illicit drug activity, etc.
  • We will maintain a close working relationship with the police or sheriff.

Drug-Free Workplace

  • We will not tolerate illicit drug use or sales by patrons or employees.
  • It is a violation of company policy to possess, sell, trade, or offer illegal drugs for sale or engage in the illegal use of drugs on the job.
  • It is a violation of company policy to use or be under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol at any time while on or using company property, conducting company business or otherwise representing the company.
  • Violations of this policy are subject to (letter of reprimand/suspension from work without pay/dismissal).

Some Good Resources for a Drug-Free Workplace:

Employee Responsibility Statement

Employee: Read and Sign

I understand that our business is dedicated to the safe and responsible sale and service of alcohol.

I will not knowingly serve alcohol to an underage or obviously intoxicated person. I will report any signs of illegal drug activity to management.

I have read and understand our policies. I understand that if I follow these policies, management will fully support my decisions.

I also recognize that my failure to follow these policies may result in job probation, suspension, loss of hours, or termination from this employment.



Employee Signature



Incident Log

You may download a copy of form ABC-607 for logging incidents at your business.