A dram shop is a commercial establishment such as a bar or tavern where alcohol is served. This also includes restaurants where alcohol-based drinks and wine are available. If a dram shop fails to abide by the laws, they may lose their liquor license.
What Are Dram Shop Laws in Washington, D.C.?
When you hear the words dram shop laws, what comes to mind? For many people, not so much. However, they could be important if you own a business in the district that serves or sells alcohol. In addition, if you or a loved one suffered injuries in a drunk driving accident, you might have a claim against the owner of the tavern, restaurant or liquor store that sold the alcohol to the drunk driver. Let’s tour the topic of dram shop laws in the District so if the unthinkable happens, you will have a working knowledge of rules that could be critical to your drunk driving lawsuit.
What Is a Dram Shop?
A dram shop is a commercial establishment such as a bar or tavern where alcohol is served. This also includes restaurants where alcohol-based drinks and wine are available. If a dram shop fails to abide by the laws, they may lose their liquor license. The establishments may also be required to pay a hefty fine.
Why Do Dram Shop Laws Exist?
Dram shop laws are there to protect the public. They prohibit selling alcoholic beverages to minors, drunken patrons or those who are known to be habitual drinkers.
Dram Shop Laws in the District
The dram shop laws are found in DC Code § 25-781 and are summarized below:
- No one under 21 years of age can be served alcohol in a dram shop.
- An individual 18 and older can serve, deliver or sell alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises [§ 25-784].
- No one under 21 can work as a bartender [§ 25-784].
- An intoxicated individual should be refused the sale or delivery of alcohol.
- A notorious drunkard may be refused alcohol under the dram laws.
Penalties for Disregarding the Dram Shop Laws
Dram shops face stiff penalties if the owner disregards the dram shop laws in the District. They are:
- The first violation is a fine of $2,000 to $3,000 with a five-day consecutive suspended liquor license
- The second is a fine of $3,000 to $5,000 with a 10-day suspension levied.
- The second is a fine of $5,000 to $10,000 with a 15-day suspension levied.
- The fourth violation empowers the board to take the license.
- Five violations within four years ends in the loss of the establishment’s liquor license.
Can a Dram Shop Be Sued by a Patron for Refusing to Serve Them Alcohol?
No. Under DC Code § 25-781, the dram shop cannot be sued for any damages that may arise due to refusal to serve alcohol under these circumstances.
Are Minors Allowed to Drink Alcohol at All?
Sometimes parents will buy an alcoholic beverage and allow an underage person to drink in the dram shop. In D.C., this is illegal.
Holding a Dram Shop Liable
Dram shops can be held liable if, by serving alcoholic beverages unlawfully, an accident occurs. For instance, let’s say alcohol is served to an obviously drunken individual. The person leaves the bar or restaurant and causes a drunk driving accident. A person in the passenger vehicle is killed, and another is critically injured.
The dram shop, along with the drunk driver, can be held liable for the damages the injured passenger suffered as well as that of the family of the deceased person. While the above is the most common type of accident that involves a dram shop, others can occur. For instance, a drunken patron at the restaurant or bar can cause injury to a server or another patron, and the dram shop would also be held liable.
Roeser Law Firm
If injury due to breaking dram shop laws happens to someone you love or yourself, call the Roeser Law Firm at (202) 660-4070 or contact us online. We will schedule a free case review and work to obtain the compensation you deserve, including lost wages, medical care costs and for your pain and suffering. Let us know as soon as possible after the accident since evidence may disappear with time.