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Responsibility Of Bar Staff Difficult In Our Modern Society

Breaking a long distance car journey recently, I called in to one of my favourite licenced hostelries. I was in search of a mug of coffee and a packet of cigarettes. Coffee and tea served in so called ‘Super Stores’ and ‘Self Service Petrol Stations’, in those waxed paper cups, are rather like the slop served on Irish train journeys, so I have learned to avoid both with equal enthusiasm.

Alone and sitting in the corner of the warm bar, gave me the perfect opportunity to eavesdrop and study life around me without distraction.

A group of, what appeared to be, office girls were discussing new dresses acquired for a forthcoming twenty first birthday party. An elderly couple were silently munching salads, briefly exchanging whispered sentences, between mouthfuls of potato salad and coleslaw. A sad looking elderly gentleman, in a well worn dark top coat and matching wellingtons, cap on knee and holding a stick in one hand, a pint in the other, was staring blankly towards the ground.  A black and white sheep dog, obviously the mans property, was lying obediently under his masters chair with eyes closed, awaiting his next command.

Suddenly the quiet calm was broken by the inward rush of five gentlemen, ages somewhere between twenty five and thirty five. One could not but smile at their get-up. Wearing garb, which I can only describe as some sort of ladies skimpy gym wear, it soon became apparent they were celebrating a well planned stag party and had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol, prior to entering this establishment.

Having listened to their good humored, yet loud loutish banter for some twenty minutes, and the wasted efforts attempted by the unfortunate lone barman to control their volume voices, my thoughts strayed to the present situation of two Tipperary barmen and the problems they find themselves facing later this year.

These hotel bar staff recently appeared in the Circuit Court in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, charged with the manslaughter of an English guest, following a night’s socialising at the hotel, their place of work.  We are given to understand that the guest, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, tragically choked to death on his own vomit, as a result of acute alcohol intoxication. The bar manager and his colleague were later charged with an unlawful killing, following a lengthy investigation into his tragic death by police.

This case will be the first in Ireland involving so-called “liquor liability” and is being closely watched by the Licensing Trade and Union representatives of over 2,000 bar staff across the whole of the twenty six counties.  Concerns about the possible future implications of this case and its outcome are certain to provoke much public debate regarding the responsibilities of bar staff, bar managers and the owners of licensed premises, when dealing with their day to day clientele.

In this age we live in, too many young people are arriving at their local pub, already under the influence of drink or indeed drugs and this makes the job and responsibility of owners and bar staff, particularly difficult.

While my thoughts and sympathies lie with the family and friends of all those involved in this tragedy, I believe now is the time to put in place stricter policies and safer procedures to further educate and safe guard both party’s in situations like this one.

While I am not aware of the full facts in this case, I believe that consumers must also be responsible in such situations, and these responsibilities should not be just pushed onto someone else, in the ordinary performance of their daily work.

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