No beer here

Thanks to the pandemic, everyone is treating my motor dealership like a neighborhood bar. Is this normal?

You might want to check with an attorney about liability, says our elder.

Dear EWC

My husband and I are half owners of a motorsports dealership. Because we service agricultural vehicles we were allowed to remain open during the recent pandemic shutdowns. I am a school teacher and do not make the day-to-day decisions at the shop, but come in three days a week to do the books. Our shop has become a social hangout in the absence of bars that have shut down and a customer has filled the refrigerator at the store with beer. I threw a bit of a fit that people are drinking at our shop during business hours. And now my husband is very angry with me. I made him remove all the beer.

I am mad for multiple reasons. First off, we don’t need to encourage that type of socializing in this environment and secondly because we could be liable for giving people alcohol. Third, I don’t want our business to have a bad reputation. Oftentimes the employees will have a beer or two at the end of the day, but today I showed up to do the books and a loud, obnoxious customer was sitting in the showroom offering people beers. So, I am seeking the perspective of a non-biased person and wanting to know: Does this happen at other businesses? Is this normal? Should I just bite my tongue or am I justified in being upset?

Papa-Smokey replies

There is a fine line between providing a friendly, comfortable environment for your business and going over the top and creating a bar-like environment. People are especially eager for these types of environments during our pandemic and are seeking out spaces where they can have interaction with most bars and restaurants shut down or with limited capacity. Since you aren’t selling alcohol I don’t think you would be as liable as a commercial establishment that sells alcohol. However, I think it would be wise to check with an attorney about liability. You also want to make sure you’re not making those customers who don’t want to drink uncomfortable with the environment and losing their business. You may want to check with those customers and ask them how they feel about people drinking, and if that adversely affects their attitude about doing business with your dealership.

The pandemic has changed the business environment. Do your homework to make sure that by creating a comfortable place for customers to gather and be social you aren’t alienating others resulting in net loss of business.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Good luck!

Letter #: 460072
Category: Career

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