There is an interesting addition at Target Field for Minnesota Twins fans: self-serve beer stations. The machines called DraftServ will allow customers to choose between four beers and how much they want to be poured. The stations however raise some interesting liability questions under dram shop laws and negligence standards. If customers are serving themselves, it raise question over the “over serving” customers. We have previously discussed lawsuits against stadiums for such cases of excessive consumption of alcohol.
The Minnesota state law on dram shop liability is relatively short:
340A.801 CIVIL ACTIONS.
Subdivision 1.Right of action. A spouse, child, parent, guardian, employer, or other person injured in person, property, or means of support, or who incurs other pecuniary loss by an intoxicated person or by the intoxication of another person, has a right of action in the person’s own name for all damages sustained against a person who caused the intoxication of that person by illegally selling alcoholic beverages. All damages recovered by a minor under this section must be paid either to the minor or to the minor’s parent, guardian, or next friend as the court directs.
Illegal sales would include the sale to intoxicated persons. The customer merely go to a cash register, show their ID and preload a $10 or $20 or (for All-Star games) a $50 card. They can them extract as much beer as they want at prices like Bud Light for 38 cents per ounce. The company says that an employee will be stationed to spot any underaged persons or intoxicated persons. However, the machines will allow a person to pour up to 48 ounces of beer every 15 minutes. That is the equivalent to four beers at a time.
We previously discussed restaurants that now offer table taps and the same concerns. If there is a person stationed at these machines, it would seem that the company can claim no difference for purposes of supervision. However, as these machines become more popular, there could be serious problems with such supervision and questions raised over the amount of beer that can be withdrawn. Of course, people currently can buy an unlimited number of beer cups so long as they are above the legal age and not intoxicated. I expect another objection may be that pre-buying alcohol will encourage people to use the cards even if they could be used at a later game — leading to greater consumption at games. With such over-indulgence at growing problem at stadiums (which make their highest profits from alcohol), the new machines could exacerbate the problem.
Selling by the ounce would remove objections in other stadiums over questionable size pricing on beer. However, it will hardly stop the overcharging for beer generally. I like the Nationals stadium a great deal but I am always shocked by the roughly $10 beer prices. If you did not have a personal inclination to remain sober, the Nats give you a pretty good financial reason to do so.