According to a bartender “Don’t be afraid to say ‘NO’ to alcohol”
- Name: Eric G
- Age: 25
- Occupation: Bartender
- Location: Chicago, IL
How are you exposed to binge-drinking in your job?
Well, we get people who have obviously been drinking too much. Many of them come into the bar that way. They’ve either been at another bar or establishment before they got to my bar or they warmed up with some drinks before going out to the bar. Some of them get mad when I tell them I can’t serve them. In a bar, we have rules and policies regarding overserving patrons. Not only does that involve the legal liabilities of serving alcohol to someone who has over-imbibed, it also involves that fact that we’re concerned for the welfare of our patrons. We don’t want to have them get in a car and kill someone on the way home or on the way to the next bar. We’ll also have some people who arrive at the bar sober and they’ll then drink too much too fast when they are there. But me and my wait staff have been trained to monitor that and we’ll cut them off or slow them down, if necessary.
Based on your experience, what are the risks associated with binge-drinking?
As a bartender, the main risk I’m concerned about is drinking and driving. We don’t want any of our patrons to get in a car and kill themselves or someone else after drinking in our establishment. On another note, I’ve noticed that some of my patrons who are alcoholics seem to have started out as college binge-drinkers and their drinking habits then eventually involved into alcohol addiction or dependency.
Can you describe a specific situations you’ve been in that highlights these risks?
Well, it didn’t happen to me, but it happened to a buddy of mine who is also a bartender. A couple years ago, he had a patron that drank too much in his bar. He could tell that the guy had too much to drink, because he was loud and he was stumbling a bit when he went to the restroom. So, my friend the bartender told this guy that he couldn’t serve him any more alcohol that night. He offered him free sodas or glasses of water for the rest of the night, but the guy wasn’t interested. My friend asked the young man if he had driven to the bar. The man said he had. My friend asked the young man if one of his friends could take him home. The young man agreed that he was probably too drunk to drive and he left the bar with a friend who had not overindulged. Unfortunately, the drunk young man convinced his friend the he was OK to drive the short distance home, and his friend consented and let him do so. On his way home, the drunk man weaved into an oncoming lane of traffic with his car and hit another car containing a young married couple with two kids. The mother in that car was killed immediately, on impact. The kids and the husband were OK, but the husband was then left without a wife and the kids were then left without a mother. The young drunk driver was soon sentenced to a minimum of seven years in prison as a result of his actions. His life, as he knew it, was over.
Does binge-drinking and being drunk make people cool and attractive?
No, not at all. People might think that at the time, but if they could see themselves when they’re drunk like that, they would quickly realize that there’s nothing cool about it.
What do movies/TV get wrong about drinking?
I’m not sure. But one thing I will say is that I don’t see a lot of movies or TV shows that spend a lot of time talking about how heavy drinking, binge-drinking, or alcohol addiction can absolutely ruin lives and families.
What does the term “Drink Responsibly” mean to you?
As I just mentioned, I encourage people who drink to do so moderately and responsibly. Drinking to get drunk is not cool and it’s not attractive. Drinking to get drunk should never be anyone’s objective. Getting together with friends for drinks is fine…and fun, as long as people drink responsibly. But getting drunk, wasted, shit-faced, trashed…not cool. Not cool at all!
What drinking-related advice would you offer high school or college students?
Be careful. Be cautious. Drink responsibly. And don’t be afraid to say “no” to alcohol or more alcohol. At my bar, we always see groups of friends together and I often notice that there is someone in that group who is always interested to escalate the drinking, someone who is encouraging others to drink more. Maybe that’s the guy that is ordering shots for everyone or maybe that’s the guy who tells the waiter “one more round for everyone” or maybe that’s the guy who walks around the table with the pitcher of beer filling everyone’s glass. When you get in that situation, don’t be afraid to say no to more alcohol. Don’t let peer pressure control the amount of alcohol you drink. It’s cool to drink responsibly.