Propensity of alcohol establishments to sell to obviously intoxicated patrons

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Background: Although it is illegal to sell alcohol to an individual who appears obviously intoxicated, several recent studies show that the propensity of these types of sales is high. Our study further assesses the propensity of alcohol establishments to sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons. In addition to providing more recent data (2001) on pseudo-intoxicated purchase attempts at Midwestern on-premise establishments, our study examines the association between establishment policies/practices and the likelihood of sales to intoxicated patrons. Method: We hired professional actors to feign intoxication while attempting to purchase alcohol (pseudo-intoxicated patrons) at 231 bars and restaurants, and we conducted a phone survey of owners/managers of each establishment. Our dependent variable was purchase attempt outcome (alcohol sold vs not sold). Our independent variables included policies/practices of establishments and characteristics of buyers/servers, establishments, and neighborhoods. Results: Pseudo-intoxicated patrons were able to purchase alcohol in 65% of their attempts. Multivariate analyses showed the following: (1) compared with establishments with beer- and/or wine-only licenses, establishments with full liquor licenses were less likely to sell to intoxicated patrons; (2) establishments with average length of employment among managers of at least 1 year were more likely to sell to obviously intoxicated patrons; and (3) establishments that held staff meetings at least once a month were less likely to sell to obviously intoxicated patrons. Neighborhood characteristics were not associated with our outcome in multivariate analyses. Conclusions: Our findings provide increased evidence of the need to address the illegal sale of alcohol to intoxicated patrons, particularly given that increased intoxication levels among patrons resulting from these types of sales can lead to alcohol-related problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1194-1199
Number of pages6
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Alcohol
  • Alcohol Establishments
  • Illegal Sales
  • Policies


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