There’s an unspoken understanding between good bartenders and their customers. Bar patrons generally want to drink and have fun, but not accidentally kill themselves while doing it. Great bartenders know how to work that balance, and keep their patrons alive and coming back.
That unfortunately wasn’t what happened when Renaud Prudhomme went out drinking with his daughter and some friends in a French town called Clermont-Ferrand last October. The Guardian reports that after breaking a bar’s records for most shots consumed at one time, Prudhomme died in the hospital a day later.
Prudhomme and his drinking pals stopped into a bar called Starter, where they spotted a plaque stating the establishment’s current shots record of 55. Bartender Gilles Crepin admitted in an earlier hearing that displaying the record was a mistake, and that he felt it had encouraged Prudhomme’s binge.
Crepin’s lawyer, Renaud Portejoie, is appealing the case. He said, “It’s a decision guided by emotion and the unconscious desire to set an example.”
Earlier, Portejoie had requested that the case be thrown out entirely. He also alleged that Prudhomme’s own daughter had goaded the man into downing 56 shots, and that Prudhomme had both existing alcohol abuse and respiratory problems.
But Prudhomme’s daughter’s lawyer, Antoine Portal, said she wasn’t even at the bar at the time of the drinking competition—only that she dropped her father off and helped get him home afterward.
Crepin was convicted of manslaughter, and will serve a four-month suspended jail sentence. He has also been banned from working in any bar for a year. Portal said his client was pleased by the ruling, and added, “We want to remind some professionals that it is illegal to serve alcohol to clients who are in an advanced state of inebriation.”
So When Should Bartenders Cut You Off?
Serious Eats surveyed 25 bartenders about this very question awhile back. While all of them had different answers, many agreed that you have to judge each situation individually.
Bartender Milan Mijatovic said, he cuts people off “with a smile, glass of water and a nice word. A shot of Malort would help as well! :) If you don’t know the person, you want to inform the rest of the staff, manager and security. If guest is with a group , I’m trying to get help from his friends. If I go directly, it’s always private and non-confrontational, expressing concerns on his well-being.”