Hausmann Group June 27, 2017 4 min read

Wisconsin Dram Shop Liability: Restaurants and Taverns

First off, where does this word “Dram” come from? Historically alcohol was sold by a unit of measure called a “Dram” meaning 1/8 of a fluid ounce.


We all know alcohol doesn’t always bring out the best in people. When someone sustains injuries or damage to property from an intoxicated party they have the right to file a claim against them to be indemnified. For the claim to be successful the plaintiff must prove a duty of care, a breach of that care, and resulting damage.

Unfortunately, liability may not always end with the intoxicated/at-fault party. Claims can also be made against third parties such as the restaurant or tavern that served the alcoholic beverages to the individual. Liquor Liability Insurance can be purchased by restaurants and taverns to provide legal defense if they are named in a lawsuit.

Well, that doesn’t exactly seem fair to a restaurant or tavern. They can’t give out breathalyzer tests at the door. They can’t control what people do after leaving their establishment. This is especially scary for the owners of restaurants and taverns when you consider that in 2014, 31 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities were alcohol related.

Luckily for restaurants and taverns in Wisconsin, we have Statute 125.035 which states: “A Person is immune from civil liability arising out of the act of procuring alcohol beverages for or selling, dispensing or giving away alcohol beverages to another person.” Does that mean restaurant or bar owners shouldn’t carry Liquor Liability Insurance?

While the Statute does mitigate much of the risk, there are exceptions to the protection this statute provides. A restaurant or tavern could still be found liable if they served an underage person, misrepresent a beverage as non-alcoholic, or the intoxicated person crossed state lines into a state with different Dram Shop Laws, such as Illinois. Regardless of the Statute or the circumstances, you can still be named in a lawsuit and you will want your insurance company to pay for your legal defense costs.

Dram Shop laws or not, many business owners are now adding Liquor liability coverage to their insurance program.  This coverage may be more affordable than you think.  Remember, you cannot control the risks your patrons take after leaving your establishment, but you can manage the impact those decisions may have on your business.  As an Independent Agent, I suggest you seriously consider this coverage not just for the sake of your business, but for your peace of mind!