How Bartenders Steal & How We Catch Them

BARTENDER THEFT: Bar Theft, Palming Stolen Money, Stolen Money to Tip Jar, Underage Drinking, Dram Shop Concerns

March 3, 2014 18:35 by administrator

BARTENDER THEFT: Bar Theft, Palming Stolen Money, Stolen Money to Tip Jar, Underage Drinking, Dram Shop Concerns


Bartender Summary

The agent observed the following bartenders the evening of June 30th:

-Indoor Bar

·       Xxxxx: Caucasian male, 6’2”, medium build, short dark hair


·       Xxxxx: Caucasian male, 6’0”, medium build, short dark hair  

-Near Bar

·       Bartender 3: Caucasian male, 6’1”, medium build, short spiked brown hair  

·       Bartender 4: Caucasian male, 6’2”, medium build, short dark hair  

The agent initially approached the nearer of the two outdoor  bars at 7:17.  At that time, all three bartenders were doing their best to keep up with the demand, but from the moment the agent walked in, it was obvious that they were beyond the limit of how much business they could keep up with.  And while both of them were working gamely to do all that they could, it was six minutes before one of them was able to get to a given guest after her arrival.

This was not an isolated incident either, as the experience was typical of the average guest.  Even so, after initially speaking to the agent at 17:23, Bartender 3 was able to present the ordered beverage a mere two minutes later.  Though  it  is worth noting that no beverage napkins were used by either bartender at any point.  Of some additional concern, the agent noted that the bartender never actually rang the order in.  Rather, he approached the POS, and registered a flurry of screen touches that ultimately culminated in a “No sale” screen and the cash being split between the register and tip jar.  Again, this experience was sadly typical.  (see photo below from 8:20).

In addition to multiple “No sale” ring-ins, the agent also witnessed another common practice effective for hiding cash theft:  rather than create and close out each individual order, both Bartenders 3 and 4 had a tendency to leave a tab open at all times, which they would add drinks to and apply cash payments to repeatedly without closing out.  In addition to making the cash sales record a confused jumble, this also gives a readout less than a centimeter in size stating the change due back to the guest. Obviously, in a bar where the nearest guest is ten feet away, this is a serious problem.

Yet two additional methods of outright theft were observed.  At 8:07, Bartender 3 received a drink order and a stack of bills with a suggestion to “keep the change.”  Rather than ring the order in, Bartender 3 held onto it, palmed in one of his hands while going about stocking work, until he eventually dropped it directly in the tip jar.

Similarly, at 8:34, Bartender 4 poured two draft beers for a guest, quoted her a price of $10, then went to the POS, and rang it in for a single draft, pressing the cash button as quickly as possible so that the large “$5.00” display was visible for only a fraction of a second, and then dropped the remainder and tip in the tip jar.

Each of these theft methods relies on quoting a price, waiting for the guest to present cash, and then ringing in something unorthodox to disguise the theft of the overage.

One practice that would go a long way to eliminating these practices would be to insist that bartenders announce the price only after having rung in the items.  This would at least make the practices above more difficult, but the fact that bartenders feel free to just ring in “No sales” and drop in cash means that they are stealing with impunity.  A good way to address this problem would be to have surprise cash drawer changes at random and unannounced times, making it easy for management to prove that some bartenders have impossible overages.  Also, since theft was consistently observed only at the outdoor bars, this would be a way of extending management’s control over the satellite bars that seem to operate with a sense of impunity.

Given the profit motivation the bartenders displayed, it surprised the agent to never see either of them offer food to a guest or even try to upsell to a more expensive brand of liquor, easy ways to increase check and tip averages.

Also, paradoxically, the bartenders were very slow about offering additional drinks to those guests whose had gone empty.  Initially, they were very busy with guests, then with cleaning up and restocking, but after this period, they tended to wait around to be approached rather than offer new drinks to guests sitting there with empties.

The agent also never observed either bartender giving any guest a check for any cash order at any time.  They simply did not do it.  This was even true at the inside bar where rampant theft methods were not observed.

Additionally, other, numerous operating controls seemed to have broken down, especially the system for checking ID.  It is possible that the bartenders were under the impression that IDs were being checked at the door, because no bartender in the establishment or out was ever seen to ask for identification of any guest.  This is obviously a big enough risk for the establishment, but on top of that, much of the crowd that evening was young, including several people that were clearly under 30.  Additionally, by the end of the evening multiple guests made statements both to the bartenders and to fellow patrons to the effect of their being completely intoxicated.  Sure enough, both guests showed all the symptoms of visible intoxication, yet they continued to receive drinks from Bartenders 3 and 4.

Even more worryingly, at 9:27, the agent observed Xxxxx serving a Mojito and a Pomonat to two girls that appeared to the agent to be underage (pictured at left) .  What’s more, Xxxxx not only never carded them, he was also never seen to ring the drink in, meaning that he either delayed the ring-in considerably, or they were given away without being properly comped and accounted for. Agent never observed the drinks to be accounted for.

Obviously, it goes without saying that under New Jersey’s dram shop law, these are massive sources of liability to the establishment, as any damages caused to either any individual or any property by a minor who has been served in a restaurant can be considered the liability of the establishment, and can be recouped by litigation.  In fact, the law is so stringent, that even minors who have not been served on the premises, but have been seen to have been intoxicated on the premises and then go on to cause damages can be a source of liability for the establishment, as the establishment is legally obligated to stop the process.  This is why it is so essential that all guests be identified in terms of age upon entry to the establishment.  Of course, when it comes to intoxicated guests, the liability exists regardless of guests' minor status.

On the other hand, there were minimal problems with correct pouring controls at  both bars.  The only overpour was actually poured by a chef (see “Managers” section for details).

All bartenders appearance was always professional and hygienic, with no cause for concern with respect to their hand washing.  The agent did observe both outdoor bartenders and Xxxxx drinking from plastic cups though.

The outdoor bar farthest from the entrance was closed.

Manager Summary

·       Patio Manager: Caucasian male, 6’0”, short dark hair and goatee , average build, black short-sleeved collared shirt labeled “Baia,”  and black slacks (pictured at right)

·       Chef: Caucasian male, 6’0”, short light brown hair in a baseball cap, glasses, wearing a black chef’s uniform monogrammed with a name beginning “Sch”

For the most part, the agent only observed the Patio Manager.  He was generally busy and effective though.  He was first seen in conversation with the hostess outside the patio bar at 8:16, then was seen circulating around the patio, in one case talking to a guest.

Next, at several times between 8:50 and 9:28, he was seen preparing bar drinks and taking them outside, presumably to help the swamped bartenders.

The only negative finding about the Patio Manager is that he was just five feet away when Xxxxx was seen presenting the alcohol to the seemingly underage guests.

Finally, the Chef described above was briefly observed at 9:20 when he stepped behind the indoor bar, grabbed a goblet, poured himself an eight-count (>3 oz) of Grey Goose, emptied a can of Red Bull over it, and then walked back into the kitchen, taking a large gulp of the drink as he walked. It was not observed to be comped in the POS.

While the Patio Manager was doing a laudable job of assisting his staff, in the agent’s opinion, his time might have been better spent by inspiring a bit of fear of authority in his bar staff.

There were no guest problems at any point that required manager intervention.

Michael Zenner - CEO      

Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc.  (blog)

Hospitality Checkpoint

PO BOX 995 Gilbert AZ 85299

Office: 480-777-7056

Toll Free: 800-880-0811

© Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc. 2014

BARTENDER THEFT - ADLLC Violation, Alcohol Consumption While on Duty, Poor Customer Service

April 30, 2012 19:59 by administrator


Bartender Summary                                                          

  • Bar 1:  Caucasian female approximately 5’6 with a slender frame and shoulder length brown hair wearing a black tank top and jeans.

 The agent and associate took a seat at the bar top and were greeted by Bar 1.  She provided water glasses and a carafe of water and stood in front of us waiting for a drink order to be placed.  She did not provide a friendlier greeting including welcoming us or verbally asking what we would like to drink.  We requested a minute to look at the wine list.

She returned a short time later and asked “What do ya think.” which is much too casual of a statement for the nature of the establishment in the agent’s opinion.

A drink order was placed and made quickly (see food and beverage summary for details).  She did not use beverage napkins for the drinks even though there were beverage napkins neatly placed on the bar top nearby.

She did not report to the POS to start us a tab or place an itemized chit in front of us.  In fact, no guests at the bar had chits in front of them on the bar top.            

Approximately 35 minutes after the drinks were ordered Bar 1 rang in our drinks, printed the check and placed it in front of us on the bar in a check presenter.  The agent understands the house policy of providing guests a receipt after items are ordered but felt Bar 1’s method was more similar to auto dropping the check as it was presented in a presenter. Agent points out that this methodology is sieve of opportunity for bartender theft and suggests that management address it. Moreover, it's very cumbersome to "spot" for bartender theft if the bartender simply isn't ringing in drinks.

 She did not ask us of another round was wanted and the agent’s beverage was nearly empty.

 The agent provided payment and it sat on the presenter for approximately 5 minutes before it was processed which surprised the agent since Bar 1 was so quick to drop the check she had no rush to process the payment for the agent.  She thanked us in-genuinely in the agent’s opinion and quickly picked up the presenter to collect her tip. 

She did not acknowledge us as we left which made for a poor last impression in the agent’s opinion.

 Overall the agent felt Bar 1 was not very friendly towards the agent and associate.  She only seemed interested in conversing with guests she already knew. 

 She was observed eating food off of guests’ plates behind the bar while on duty and in view of guests. 

 She also consumed wine regularly while on duty behind the bar which is a violation of the Liquor Law.  She was not discreet in any way.  She kept a glass of red wine by the open bottle she was pouring from on the back bar.


4-244. Unlawful acts

12. For a licensee, when engaged in waiting on or serving customers, to consume spirituous liquor or for a licensee or on-duty employee to be on or about the licensed premises while in an intoxicated or disorderly condition.

The agent noted Bar 1 doing side work preparing to end her shift.  She was cleaning glassware and refilling mixers in pour containers.  She was marrying the mixers in pour containers that were already in use which is ill advised in the agent’s opinion.  The agent recommends new pour containers be used when prepping mixers so that the oldest product get used first. 

 To protect spotter anonymity further details from the bar evaluation can be found in the food and beverage summary.

 Neither the agent nor the associate were asked for ID.  One of which is very near 21; therefore, this is a dram shop liquor liability issue that should be addressed by management.

The agent and associate were the only guests aside from regulars and employees at the bar top.  To protect anonymity further details from the evaluation are as follows:

There was an instance of poor guest service observed with Bar 1.  At approximately 10:36 two guests entered the establishment.  She immediately told the guests the establishment closed at 10 and they left the establishment rather disappointed.  She did not attempt to invite them to the bar top to enjoy a cocktail or state they should definitely come back before 10 to sample the cuisine.

The agent made a call prior to visiting the establishment that was not used for scoring purposes.  The agent inquired about the hours the kitchen and establishment were open until to insure ample time to perform both a dining room and bar evaluations.  The employee that answered the call stated the kitchen closed at 10PM but the establishment closed at 11PM.  The instance of Bar 1 turning guests away decreases revenue from the establishment and also could possibly deter the guests from returning which is bad for the establishment as a whole in the agent’s opinion.  The agent feels all guests entering the establishment should be provided good customer service and be invited into the establishment during hours of operation even if it is close to closing time and staff is ready to end their shifts.

Michael Zenner - CEO      
Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc.  (blog)
Hospitality Checkpoint

PO BOX 995 Gilbert AZ 85299
Office: 480-777-7056
Toll Free: 800-880-0811

© Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc. 2012

Defense Attorneys Win Dram Shop Case

June 30, 2011 19:52 by administrator

Defense Attorneys win dram shop case because their client had proper safe guards in place and a good system of care for alcohol service. This verdict specifically exemplifies the need for good alcohol servicng policies and procedures. If they DID'T have this in place, then they most likely would have suffered $5,000,000.00 in damages (see red below).


Hartline Dacus Attorneys Win Defense Verdict for Adult Entertainment Company

This jury trial ended in victory for the Defendant after attorneys of the firm successfully defended a publicly traded adult entertainment establishment in a case involving an automobile-pedestrian accident that resulted in the death of a 43 year-old man.

Dallas, TX (PRWEB) June 30, 2011

Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer LLP today announced a jury trial victory after attorneys Darrell Barger, Brian Rawson and Stephanie Roark successfully defended their client in a two week Dram Shop liability trial in Harris County, Texas. The client is a publicly traded adult entertainment establishment with nightclubs in major markets across the U.S. According to court documents, the case involved an automobile-pedestrian accident that resulted in the death of a 43 year-old man in 2007. The driver of the vehicle was an adult entertainer, who was driving home from work at the defendant’s nightclub when the accident occurred. She had a blood-alcohol level almost four times the legal limit, and eventually pled guilty to felony intoxication manslaughter. Relatives of the victim filed suit against the nightclub, alleging the defendant was negligent in continuing to serve alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person, and then allowing her to drive home from the defendant’s establishment.

“While we certainly feel a great deal of sympathy for the family of the victim in this tragic accident, we were confident that our client had not been negligent in this situation. We knew we needed to mount a strong defense to prove that the company played no part in the criminal actions of this independent contractor,” said Darrell Barger, a partner in the Corpus Christi office of Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer LLP.  The jury heard testimony from a variety of expert witnesses and was presented with a reconstruction of the accident. The plaintiff’s counsel claimed the victim experienced unimaginable conscious pain and suffering when he was struck by the entertainer’s vehicle and asked the jury to award $5 million plus punitive damages to the family of the victim.

Defense counsel argued that their client had safeguards in place to prevent serving alcohol to someone obviously intoxicated, as well as to prevent their patrons from driving under the influence of alcohol. The defense also brought in expert witness to establish that alcohol played no role in the accident. After hearing testimony from both sides, the Harris County jury of seven men and five women deliberated and returned a verdict for the defense on June 15, 2011.

SOURCE: Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer LLP

Cause Number: 2009-07180
Court: 334th Judicial District Court, Harris County, Texas

Bar Settles Dram Shop Case for $1 Million

August 31, 2010 20:34 by administrator

Ga. Bar Settles Dram Shop Case for $1 Million

Holt demand, spoliation sanction help put end to suit over fatal crash

Katheryn Hayes Tucker - Fulton County Daily Report - August 31, 2010

A Holt demand and a spoliation sanction from Cobb County State Court Chief Judge Toby B. Prodgers were the key ingredients in the $1 million settlement of a wrongful death case against The Sports Grill for serving alcohol to a customer who had a fatal crash on the way home.

The drama continued into the final hour before the settlement deadline set by plaintiffs attorneys James L. Creasy III of Gillis & Creasy and Lloyd N. Bell of Bell & Mulholland, who were fielding calls on their cell phones from their cars and offices until nearly noon on July 15, when Statewide Insurance Co., acting through RCA Insurance, wrote the check rather than risk exceeding the $1 million policy liability limit if the case had gone to trial.

"Frankly, I wish they hadn't settled," said Creasy, the lead plaintiffs attorney. "I'd like to have tried the case."

Creasy had made Holt demands, a demand for settlement of the full amount of available liability insurance, unsuccessfully twice before during nearly two years working on the case. The reason the tactic worked the third time was Prodgers' order granting their motion for spoliation sanctions and striking much of the defendant's evidence. Before Prodgers' order, the defense had served the plaintiff with a $50,000 order of judgment, according to Creasy.

"That was a remarkable ruling," said Brad C. Kaplan of Kaplan & Seifter, who represents the bar owner, Winston's Food & Spirits, but was not involved in the litigation. "It was very unusual." The defense attorney in the case, J. Robb Cruser of Cruser & Mitchell, declined comment and deferred to Kaplan.

Kaplan said the bar owner was "extremely disappointed" with Prodgers' order, which created a practical problem of not being able to present evidence. The company had never faced a dram shop case during 25 years in business, according to Kaplan, who said the owner brought him in near the conclusion of the litigation. "My role was to talk to the insurance company and ask them to do the right thing," Kaplan said.

The issue in the judge's order was four hours of videotape from the night in October 2008 when William Paul Davis IV, now 28, was drinking at The Sports Grill in Austell before he left and crashed into the car driven by Cuneyt Erturk, who was on his way home from work. Erturk was killed. His widow, Trivilla Ross Erturk, is the plaintiff in the case against Davis and The Sports Grill.

The bar recorded over most of the tape, producing only a few "seconds or minutes" according to the judge's order, showing Davis entering and leaving. The order also said the bar destroyed the tabs for two patrons drinking with Davis and that night's "spill sheets," lists showing free drinks given out by bartenders.

"The testimony given by the employees of the Sports Grill would indicate that defendant Davis consumed a certain amount of alcohol during the time he was on the premises, that he was not noticeably intoxicated, and that they had no reason to believe that he would soon be driving," Prodgers said in his May 10 order following a hearing in April. "However, the videos which existed at one time would have given an objective, impartial view of Davis during the entirety of the four hour period he was at the premises and not just the few minutes or seconds which the Sports Grill saved." He called the bar employees' testimony "self-serving."

Although the police did not initially demand the entire four hours of video, Prodgers said the spoliation was "not excusable."

"With respect to the sanctions to be imposed for such spoliation, it is particularly disturbing that the Sports Bar would permit the destruction of the subject evidence after it became aware that a patron to whom it had been serving alcohol was involved in a fatal crash after leaving its premises," Prodgers' order said. "The court hereby strikes those portions of its pleadings whereby it denied that it served alcohol to defendant Davis while he was in a state of noticeable intoxication knowing that he would soon be driving." Those allegations, the judge said, are "deemed admitted."

Bell and Creasy said they believe part of the reason the judge came down as hard as he did on The Sports Grill was the evidence in the part of the video that was played in court during the motion hearing. Over defense objections, they said, they played video showing what happened in the bar after Davis left.

The bartender had just testified that he never "free pours" drinks -- a flashy practice that may please patrons and earn tips as shown in the movie "Cocktail" but can lead to overserving alcohol, they said. In the video made just after Davis left, that same bartender could be seen free pouring drinks. In free pouring, a bartender holds a liquor bottle high and streams it into a glass, rather than measuring it. Creasy and Bell said it also helped their case that Davis admitted in his testimony exactly how much he had to drink in the bar that night: two Long Island iced teas -- which typically contain five kinds of liquor -- and six 16-ounce beers.

Davis refused alcohol tests the night of the accident, but witnesses smelled alcohol on his breath, according to Creasy. Davis faces charges of DUI and vehicular homicide.The bar still contends it was not liable for Davis' actions, Kaplan said. "A high bar has been set for plaintiffs in dram shop cases," he said. He also said "free pouring is not necessarily an indication of overserving." But once Prodgers ruled on the spoliation motion, Kaplan said, the defense had "a practical problem" of not being able to present evidence. "They did not believe they were liable, but based on the legal circumstances, they did what was correct," Kaplan said of the defense. And, he added, "The plaintiff's lawyers did a good job. The case is Trivilla Ross Erturk v. William Paul Davis Jr., Suzanne G. Davis, the Sports Grill a/k/a Winston's Food and Spirits, No. 2009A-1617-6 in Cobb County State Court.


Michael Zenner - CEO      
Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc.  (blog)
Hospitality Checkpoint PLLC
PI Lic. 1597616

PO BOX 995 Gilbert AZ 85299
Office: 480-777-7056
Toll Free: 800-880-0811

© Eye Spy Spotter Services Inc. 2010