SAN FRANCISCO — A man who enjoyed tending bar in discotheques and neighborhood taverns for four years now spends much of his time teaching people how to spot and deal with troublesome drinkers.
"The most important thing is not to make a mountain out of a molehill," said Adam Chafetz, who has been giving seminars on the subject around North America for the last three years. "Talk to them as human beings.
"A bar patron will get mad if he gets cut off, but 90% of the time the trouble comes in the way the server handles the situation. If the server gets loud, the patron gets loud."
Chafetz, 29, director of training for Health Communications Inc. of Washington, D.C., described the techniques of drunk-spotting during a recent San Francisco seminar for employees of Host International, which operates bars at 40 airports in the United States.
An observant bartender will see potential troublemakers go through several stages, Chafetz said in an interview.
"In the first stage, they may get more talkative. They're relaxed, laid back. Next, their judgment falters. They may use foul language, tell inappropriate jokes, become overly friendly, increase their rate of drinking, get more exuberant."
The reactions go next. "They lose their train of thought. Their conversation slows down. They've got two cigarettes going at the same time. Or two drinks.
"In the fourth stage, their coordination goes. They may have trouble buttoning a coat or lose their balance or fall.
"There are tons of strategies to deal with troublesome patrons. The main thing is, don't be threatening."
A good bartender establishes rapport with the patrons and finds out what their interests are. "It makes it difficult for the patron to get angry with you, and it helps you understand the patron," Chafetz said.
"Also, don't say, 'You're drunk.' This only puts the patron on the defensive.
"When you have to cut him off, say it's the law or policy or the manager. Provide a reason. That keeps you on good terms with the customer. He might not like the policy, but he'll still like you. And that's good for business."
Other strategies include serving snacks or enlisting the help of a non-drunk friend of the intoxicated patron.
"The last resort is to call the cops. Even if a customer gets violent, a lot of people balk at this because it's seen as bad for business. But the idea is, you don't want him arrested, you just want to stop the trouble. This is good for business even though the customer will not appreciate it at the time. He will later."
Chafetz has tended bar in discotheques, a downtown pub and neighborhood taverns. "I loved it. It made me feel like the host of a party. I wanted the patrons to have a good time."
These days he travels around the country "training the trainers," about 4,500 people in various companies so far. They in turn have trained an estimated 12,000 servers and sellers.
His company, which is a profit-making enterprise, also conducts follow-up tests. As a result, Chafetz said, 10 major insurance carriers provide 10% to 25% discounts on liquor liability for companies using Health Communications Inc. seminars and testing.