Bars Can Now Offer Drunk Patrons A Ride In California

By Kelly Burch 01/03/18

A new law allows bars to pair up with driving services like Uber and Lyft to offer intoxicated patrons a free or discounted ride home.


It may seem like common sense to call, and even pay for, a cab for a bar patron who has had too much to drink—but until recently in California, it was technically illegal for bars to do so, since it violated laws about giving free goods to alcohol consumers. However, a new law clears the way for bars to help all their patrons get home safely. 

The legislation, which took effect on January 1, allows bars to connect patrons with free or discounted rides home, in hopes of reducing the number of impaired drivers on the road. Bartenders say that allowing establishments to offer rides to impaired patrons makes sense, and puts into law something that has already been happening. 

"We have always made sure that our customers get home safely, whether it be using our own Uber or Lyft app to get them home. Sometimes we have even given some of our regulars a ride home," Melody Moore, a bartender at Elliott's bar in Fresno, California, told ABC 30

"I think that we should all do that," she said. "It is the responsibility of anyone that works in a bar, but it is also the customer's responsibility.”

Moore added that oftentimes, bar employees become the first line of defense when it comes to preventing people who've had too much to drink from getting behind the wheel. 

"We want to promote having a good time, but also don't take the risk, it is not worth it and we see a lot of things at the bar that we try to prevent," she said.

The new legislation came as part of a revision to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. It specifies that the offer of a free or discounted ride cannot be tied to the purchase of an alcoholic beverage, but is rather for “the purposes of furthering public safety.”

The revision also includes a new requirement that all servers must undergo training on responsible beverage service. This training will include information on driving under the influence and how servers can intervene so that they don’t have to serve someone who is already intoxicated. 

The Department of Motor Vehicles estimates that more than 63% of deadly car accidents in California involved a drunk driver. Although the rates of drunk driving have diminished in recent years, there are still thousands of drunk driving arrests in the state each year. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.