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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Minnesota Study Finds “Overservice” of Alcohol Still a Major Problem at Bars and Restaurants

A study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health finds the U.S. has failed to reduce the likelihood of illegal alcohol sales to obviously intoxicated patrons — known as “overservice” — in bars and restaurants.

The study recently appeared in Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research.

“Eighty-two percent of the 340 bars and restaurants we visited sold alcohol to a pseudo-intoxicated customer played by an actor displaying signs of obvious intoxication,” said study lead author and Professor Traci Toomey.

Service of alcohol to intoxicated customers, which is illegal in most states, can lead to fatal car crashes, violence, and other harms. Measuring the likelihood that bars and restaurants will sell alcohol to intoxicated patrons is an important step in understanding the scope of this public health issue.

“We were surprised that the likelihood of illegal alcohol sales to obviously intoxicated customers was similar to the rates found in similar studies done in the 1990s,” said Dr. Toomey. “We had thought that progress might have been made in reducing the likelihood of these types of illegal alcohol sales.”

In particular, the study found that corporate-owned establishments had 3.6 greater odds of selling alcohol to a pseudo-intoxicated buyer compared to an independently owned bar or restaurant.

“More attention is needed to the issue of sales to obviously intoxicated patrons,” said Dr. Toomey. “We know it is possible to reduce the likelihood of illegal alcohol sales. Communities across the U.S. became concerned about illegal alcohol sales to underage people and have successfully reduced the likelihood of these sales occurring.”

To address the issue, Dr. Toomey suggests the implementation of effective training for bars and restaurants in responsible service of alcohol combined with increased enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to intoxicated patrons.