Cocktails and cuts: a fun blend or a recipe for disaster?

People don’t just go to salons to get their hair cut or nails painted. A trip to the salon provides an opportunity to get pampered and wind down, and more and more salons are enhancing that experience with alcohol. This can mean anything from a free martini with a manicure to a $5 glass of wine with a blow-out. Often, drinks are served with an alcohol-themed treatment, like a beer-inspired facial or a tequila-spiked margarita manicure.

As fun as that may sound, introducing alcohol into any environment can increase the chances of accident and injury. From an insurance and risk management perspective, this is still a grey area. But as the trend towards providing alcohol and alcohol-inspired treatments in salons continues to grow, salon businesses need to stay informed to protect themselves from liabilities.

In many places, a salon must have a license issued by the state in order to serve alcohol, though it appears many do so without a license. Liquor regulations vary from state to state, and even county to county, leaving a blurry roadmap for businesses to follow. In fact, California passed a bill that will allow beauty salons and barber shops to offer complimentary beer and wine without a license. That’s good news for California salons looking for opportunities to grow their businesses, but it may increase the likelihood of instances where salons are responsible for alcohol-related accidents.

Most people know that alcohol impairs motor skills. Combine a customer who’s drinking with the snipped hair, wet floors and tripping hazards found in many salons, and you have a slip and fall waiting to happen—one of the most common causes of salon insurance claims. To prove a salon violated its “duty of care” and win a claim against it, the customer only has to show that the accident was foreseeable by the shop owner.

It is possible alcohol could even play a role in a staff member’s negligence. What’s to stop a salon’s staff from drinking on the job when alcohol is readily available and being served to customers? The staff is in constant close contact with their patrons, using chemicals and equipment that require a steady, skilled hand. A technician under the influence could lose track of the proper treatment times, accidentally harm a customer with scissors or even use the wrong chemicals. And all of that can certainly lead to a lawsuit and/or insurance claim.

Much of this is speculation at this point, but I know mixing booze and beauty treatments is a dangerous cocktail that can cause accidents. Before your salon begins serving alcohol, take two simple steps to mitigate the risks of accidents while protecting your business: Follow state and county liquor laws, and talk to your insurance agent about alcohol liability and related insurance coverage.

Kathy Lopez, Account Manager for SASSI, the Salon and Spa Specialty Insurance program at Brownyard Group. She can be reached at klopez@brownyard.com.