This response was from our Blog ‘Golf Course Liquor Lawsuit‘ and after speaking with the writer felt the opinion expressed was worth sharing (with a few minor edits)!

By: Jim Hylands

These issues have been ignored by the golf industry for too many years. Quite frankly we (and many club managers) are taking advantage of the ClubLink situation to “get the message out” to club owners and Directors.

The fact is that “Pub Owners” have beeen addressing the Liquor Service problems seriously for over 20 years. The golf industry has not. Most local Pubs discourage “stag parties” and the more rambunctious sports bars and nightclubs have “bouncers” and “security staff” to enforce behaviour. Have you ever seen either at a golf club ?

Let’s face it, corporate golf tournaments are notorious for only barely letting the game interfere with serious drinking, any club which books “Stag Parties” really should assume that there “might” be some excessive drinking, and leaving the typical golf club parking lot following “Mens’ Night” after hours poker games would scare Evil Knieval (if he was sober). This is compounded by the fact that buses don’t stop at most golf clubs at 2:00 a.m. and taxis aren’t lined up at the doors at closing time. The drinkers all drove to the club and they are likely to drive home.

It doesn’t take genius to realize that Beverage Carts make monitoring and control of alcoholic consumption (required by law) an impossible task for the staff, and the excuse that staff have “difficulty” cutting off members, is a Senior Management / Club Policy problem. I recently suggested to a club manager that he and every other manager or golf pro in the country could probably name five “habitual drunks” at their club. His response was “…yeah, probably five per family…” So why does this situation persist ?

Since the game of golf does not really require the consumption of alcoholic beverages, the “over-service” must be a “Revenue & Marketing” issue. I would suggest that it is clearly in your clients’ best interests to take the legal and civil implications of a Liquor License into consideration when selling their facility’s services. I imagine that a hefty corporate fine, multiple personal fines, and a six to eight month license suspension might seriously impact both the club’s revenues and its marketing efforts. Maybe if ALL the club’s consultants (you, their lawyers, us, etc.) were preaching from the same page, the problem would be addressed.

Rather than “over-emphasis” in the press, our experience is that not one in a hundred cases gets any press, and those that do tend to be very local only. ClubLink is the first time that we have seen National exposure. While Squamish Valley may be getting some local prerss, it is not unfortunately general knowledge and certainly not getting the golf industry’s attention.

My comment that your article “missed the point” still stands. Whether we like the Liquor License Acts or not, they are the law in every province in Canada and the possibility that “others” may or may not be breaching them, or whether or not rowdy drunks are responsible for their own actions is irrelevant. I’m sure that your parents had the same old line that mine did; something about “…if your friends were all jumping off a bridge would you do it too ?…”

My response to your blog was a clear and unabashed crusade to “convert” you to the cause. If you are now more aware of the situation, hopefully your presentations and recommendations to your club clients will take on the same attitude, that it is time to address the issues and correct the actions. Social attitudes have to be changed one person at a time.

As the leading underwriter of insurance for golf clubs in Canada (over 600) for the past 35 years, we see a dozen of these claims each year and it is interesting that virtually no one in the golf industry press has paid much attention until the Ontario government finally charged someone “personally”. ie ClubLink Directors, Officers and staff.

Owners, Directors, Officers & Employees take note and beware.

“Other facilities” long ago implemented a written contract procedure with every Event Organizer which requires the organizer to assume responsibility for the actions of his / her / its guests and “Indemnify” the facility for any damages caused or any third party suits ( like Mr. Donohue’s) that are brought against the facility. Maybe the stag party organizer would have been much more interested in controlling his guests and / or assisting the course staff to control the level of intoxication if he was going to be personally held liable.

Yes, the impaired combatants should be held responsible for their actions, but who served them alcohol to the point of intoxication such that they acted stupidly and out of control ? Who failed to provide reasonable supervision at an event at which intoxication was virtually inevitable ? Who breached the Liquor License Act Regulations that specifically state that a commercial liquor host may not do so ? Who applied for a Liquor License, undertook liquor server training, agreed to abide by the terms and conditions of that license and then broke the law ?

Mr.. Donohue’s Statement of Claim is against 31 defendants of which the club is only one so the combatants are being held responsible for their actions. The ClubLink situation highlights the fact that the BC Government could have laid personal penal charges against the Directors, Officers & Staff of Squamish Valley Golf Club too.

Instead of “questioning the responsibility” or “awaiting the outcome” consultants to the golf club industry like yourselves and ourselves should be “ringing the bell” and “sounding the wake-up calls”. Liquor laws are clear and unambiguous and if we don’t like them we need to lobby our political representatives to change them, but in the meantime, our clients in the golf club industry (and others) are required to adhere to them or suffer the consequences.

Thanks for listening.

Jim Hylands
Vice President
Simmlands Insurance Brokers Ltd.