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Keywords:

  • Overserving;
  • Alcohol Intoxication;
  • Compliance;
  • Mystery Shopping

Background

Consuming large quantities of alcohol might result in negative consequences for both individual drinkers (alcohol dependency and addiction) and society (violence, traffic crashes). In order to decrease the prevalence of alcohol abuse, many countries have adopted regulations prohibiting the catering industry to serve alcohol to intoxicated guests. This article investigated compliance with these regulations in the Netherlands.

Methods

A study was conducted in which pseudo-intoxicated actors tried to order alcoholic drinks in 58 bars. A 2 × 2 design was used, based on (i) the number of actors involved (1 vs. 2) and (ii) the level of intoxication (moderately vs. very drunk). In contrast to earlier studies, research accomplices checked afterward whether the bartenders noticed that the actors appeared intoxicated.

Results

In 86% of the cases, the actors were able to buy alcohol, without comments or questions. In 10%, the actors were refused entrance by a bouncer. Only in 4%, the bartender refused to serve. In 81% of the cases, the bartenders remembered the actors: In 93% of those cases, they noticed that the actor appeared intoxicated. Only the “very drunk” script involving 2 actors led to refusals.

Conclusions

The results show that compliance with the regulations regarding overserving to intoxicated guests is problematic in the Netherlands. Misinterpretations of the situation could be ruled out: Most bartenders noticed that the actors appeared intoxicated but served nonetheless.