Bar Receipts in Liquor Liability Disputes Expert Article

Sales receipts can be incredibly insightful in liquor liability/dram shop disputes. This article discusses bar receipts from the perspective of a dram shop expert dissecting a receipt, discovery tips for acquiring itemized receipts, and how dram experts can use this information to determine how much alcohol was served.



The Use of Bar Receipts in Dram Shop Investigations

When & Where Were Drinks Served?

Most point of sale (POS) systems will display the name of the establishment on the top of the receipt. This will tie the alleged drinker to the establishment. In hotels with multiple locations where alcohol is sold, each area should have its own name on the receipt (ex: “Lobby Bar 2” or “XYZ Restaurant”).

Even a private banquet function with a cash bar is likely to have a have a POS system that designates it as a banquet and is likely to produce bar receipts to guests.

Bar Receipt Expert Analysis

The receipt will generate an opening time once the first item ordered is entered into the POS system and maintain a running record as additional items are ordered. Most POS systems will document the time when the tab was closed, usually located at or near the bottom of the receipt, thus giving a total time spent at the venue and the purchasing history of the alcoholic beverages ordered there.

If the hard copy of the receipt isn’t available, the back-office system that runs the venue business administration processes typically records all sales transactions and will have the same information. Some companies will scan the closed check into their accounting system for record keeping purposes.

This time frame for the service of alcohol to patrons is important in cases where a toxicologist is involved and is used in their calculations for determining an individual’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) at a specific time.

How Many (Standard) Drinks Were Served?

Most POS systems will have specific drinks, types of alcohol, specific beer brands, and pour sizes programmed so that employees can enter the specific beverage being ordered.

For example, an entry might read 16 ounce Pour Some Hazy On Me. Researching this beer by name will show that it contains 9.5% Alcohol by Volume, (ABV), which is more than double the amount of alcohol in a Miller Lite beer.

This can also be utilized for cocktails, as bars/restaurants often have their own recipes for these drinks. Once the receipt is produced and it is found to include Long Island Iced Tea, for example, the recipe can be analyzed to determine how many standard drinks the beverage is equivalent to.

In researching the drink recipes, one could also delve into how the drinks are prepared in reference to free pouring of alcohol or the use of measured jiggers used to measure out alcohol volumes. Many establishments like to allow their bartenders to free pour as it adds speed, gives the bartender an opportunity to add their own flare, and entertains the patrons.

However, this practice of free pouring can lead to overpouring, less consistent cocktails, and it is challenging and requires lots of practice and training. The use of jiggers produces a more consistent cocktail and a measured drink that is more accurate in alcohol volume than the free pour version.

How to Acquire Receipts in Liquor Liability Investigations

Receipts can often be accessed from the back-office POS system months or years after the date of purchase. Depending on the venue or circumstances, different approaches should be considered:

  • Credit Card Receipt – Even a non-itemized credit card receipt will contain valuable information to retrieve the itemized detail from a modern POS system.  
  • Room or Folio Number – When dealing with hotel bars and restaurants it may be possible to query the POS for a list of receipts by room/folio number that corresponds with the date of incident.
  • Sales Total – Many POS systems allow you to query archived receipts based on the total sales amount on specific dates. Where payment was made by credit or debit card, it may be possible to locate matching receipts by starting with the sales total on account documents.
  • Credit Card Information – The last four digits of the credit card combined with the last name of the patron can often be used to query POS archives.

The receipt number is very useful in locating receipts and can also be used as a search parameter.

Each POS system will have its own means of storage, but with technology today it is highly unlikely that receipts cannot be found or retrieved.

Alcohol Consumption & Dram Shop Investigations

Robson Forensic is equipped to provide the full range of expertise required towards the resolution of claims and litigation involving the abuse or misuse of alcohol and other drugs. Our firm includes experts in toxicology, dram shop, premises security and police practices, all of whom are nationally recognized leaders in their fields.

For more information, submit an inquiry or call us at 800.813.6736.

Featured Expert

Paul Romanos, Jr., Food and Beverage Operations & Dram Shop Expert

Paul Romanos, Jr.

Food and Beverage Operations & Dram Shop Expert
Paul “PJ” Romanos is a food and beverage operations and liquor liability expert with over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. PJ has worked for some of the most… read more.


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