Outdoor Dining Creates New Hazards for Restaurants

Following months of closures and restrictions, restaurants are using innovative measures to create a socially distanced, private dining experience outside. From plastic, greenhouse-type bubbles, to large electric heaters fashioned to look like old wooden stoves, owners are extending the use of their outdoor spaces but are also setting themselves up for new risks.

ICC has been insuring businesses in cold weather areas for over seventy years, and we are here to offer some tips to secure your outdoor space.

  • When using pods, tents, or other enclosures, always use flame retardant materials.

    • Ensure that each is secured to the ground and marked to prevent tripping.

    • Display clear signage of how to exit the pods or outdoor spaces in case of fire....

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How to Handle the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

New Year’s celebration is over, Valentine’s Day was special, but February was short-lived and now comes March.

March has long been known for two things, St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Although the pandemic has impacted traditions, we are hoping the return of the tournament will bring people back to their local tavern to cheer on their favorite team. With the increase in business, it’s important to remind your employees to keep a few things in mind when serving alcohol:

  • Note the time that patrons arrive

  • Take a moment to observe each guest, and chat with them to determine their fitness to drink alcohol (i.e. are they visibly intoxicated?)

  • Monitor the amount of drinks served and the time frame in which they are served...

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Preventative Measures To Mitigate Liability For Off-Duty Employee Conduct

Most employers assume that they are not responsible for the conduct of their off-duty employees. However, under certain circumstances, an employee’s off-duty conduct can be imputed to the employer.

Consider this example: an off-duty security guard stays at the bar for a drink after their shift ends and an altercation breaks out. The off-duty security guard, believing that they have a duty to act, decides to assist other members of security to stop the fight. Unfortunately, during the fog of the altercation, the unruly patron is seriously injured at the hands of the off-duty employee. Since the act of breaking up an altercation is arguably foreseeable and is for the benefit of the employer, any negligence on the part of the off-duty security guard could be...

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The 8 Most Common Fire Hazards

Every hour over fifty calls are made to fire departments, approximately thirteen of them are calls made by businesses and industry. These types of fires cause an estimated $13 billion in property damage and approximately 3,000 fatalities per year.1 These fires are often caused by open and obvious hazards that can be brought to our insured’s attention through our Loss Control program.

Clutter and Cleanliness

Many of our older insured locations have an attic, basement, or storage room where they store items that are no longer used. These items can readily accumulate and could create a fire hazard. In order to address this issue, we suggest stocking the materials needed to organize the space and allow time at the end of each shift for the staff to clean and...

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When the Glass Breaks: How a Cold Beer Can Become a Living Nightmare

On a very hot summer day, a regular customer finished mowing his lawn and headed to his favorite local tavern for a little reward after a hard day’s work. The bartender opened the reach-in cooler where the pint glasses were aligned upside down in stacks of four. She reached down to pull a glass but ended up pulling an entire stack because they were stuck together by a thin layer of ice that had formed between them. She twisted the top glass ever so slightly, freeing it from the glass below. What she did not realize is that a small sliver from the glass below was now resting at the bottom of the glass.

As the glass filled with bubbly golden goodness, she did not notice that the sliver of broken glass had floated its way to the top, where it came to rest in the...

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Top 5 Loss Control Recommendations

As a Loss Control Representative, I have had many conversations with customers, agents, and friends about the most common hazards that I see on a daily basis. Through a discussion with others in the Loss Control Department, I’ve come up with a list of the top 5 most common recommendations, in no particular order, made by ICC:


At every inspection, with the exception of a liquor liability only inspection, the Loss Control Representative checks the service tags of the fire suppression system, hood and ducts, and fire extinguishers. In most cases, the fire suppression and hood and ducts should be serviced twice a year and fire extinguishers annually. 


During the inspection of the...

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Off-Premises Liquor Liability

When a tavern or restaurant is sued because an allegedly intoxicated patron causes an injury, state “dram shop” laws may impose responsibility to the establishment that provided the alcohol. These laws provide a remedy for recovery of damages for the innocent parties who suffered injury. Businesses often purchase liquor liability insurance coverage to provide protection for that liability. That type of coverage is usually tied to the sale or service of alcoholic beverages at “your premises.”  

The first line of the insuring agreement of the Illinois Casualty Company (ICC) Liquor Liability Coverage Form states:

We will pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of “injury” to which this insurance applies if liability...

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Temporary Workers Compensation Classification Implemented

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has assigned class code 0012 and created accompanying updates to the Basic Manual, resulting from concerns on how to address payroll for those employees who are not currently working but continue to be on the payroll.

Previously, this would have been referred to as “Idle Time” and was most widely recognized with construction, erection, or stevedoring risks. Rule 2-F-3 has been added for “Payments to Paid Furloughed Employees During Federal, State, and/or Local Emergency Orders, Laws, or Regulations Issued Due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic.”

For the purposes of this new rule, the following definitions apply:

  • “Paid Furloughed Employees” means employees who continue to receive payments during a...
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Reopening and Recommissioning Your Premises During The COVID-19 Era

After being locked down and unable to operate at normal capacity, restaurants across the country are finding that reopening is not as simple as turning on the lights and firing up the grills. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our federal, state, and local governments have enacted a panoply of statutes, regulations, and guidelines that directly impact your business and livelihood. To ensure your compliance with these requirements, we strongly recommend that you review any and all statutes, regulations, and guidelines that will impact your business during these unique times. It is also important to review CDC and OSHA guidelines and comply with any directive that has been implemented by your local health department.

After you have reviewed the substantive changes...

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Frozen Pipe Prevention and Mitigation

As temperatures fall, there are some precautionary measures that you can take to avoid a costly frozen pipe incident.

  • Insulate pipes exposed to the elements. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold winter months.

  • Inspect your building to identify “at-risk” pipes. If your building is under renovation or construction, consider wrapping pipes and/or turning off the water to limit breaks or spillage.

  • Consider placing an insulating dome or other covering on outdoor faucets or spigots to reduce the likelihood of pipes freezing, expanding, and causing a costly leak.

  • Allow for airflow. Keep doors or cabinets open to allow warm air to circulate and help avoid freezing. Pipes...

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No Stone Unturned

At Illinois Casualty Company (“ICC”), we are dedicated to conducting thorough investigations when a claim is made against our insureds and look at each claim with an eye towards leaving no stone unturned. Much can be learned from visiting the scene of an accident and interviewing all of the pertinent witnesses. Our experience and specialization in the food and beverage industry drives all of our investigations. Through our experience, we know that it is imperative to immediately begin each investigation as soon as a claim is made. Our ability to quickly respond to the investigative needs of our insureds allows us to promptly collect vital evidence before it is lost and conduct key interviews before the witnesses go missing or are unable to be located.


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Top 10 Considerations in the Claims Handling Process

If you are a college sports enthusiast, especially regarding football or basketball, you are, no doubt, familiar with the “Big Ten,” one of our nation’s premier sports conferences. Usually, one or more of their teams, in a variety of sports, are vying for a national championship each year. Other references to the number ten are various lists associated with its numerical value. A quick internet search will yield such lists as “Top 10 Famous Things That Are Pink,” “Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know Were Irish,” “10 Things You May Not Know About the Vikings,” “10 Things About the Number 10,” etc. Such listings are numerous and even humorous at times.

Now that I have your attention associated with the number ten, I would like to propose a “top 10” list of my own – ten...

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Spontaneous Combustion of Sushi Breading?!?

The charred and melted remains of an oil-based fire

There is a little-known, yet extremely common, cause of preventable fires that is affecting restaurant owners across the country. This type of fire specifically plagues the most experienced and enthusiastic chefs in the oriental culinary world. I am talking about those delicious, deep-fried tempura flakes, known as tenkasu or agedama, that are used as breading on sushi rolls. If not stored properly, this crunchy mixture can spontaneously heat up and combust overnight in your kitchen, which is part of the reason why these fires are so devastating.

How Can I Prevent a Tenkasu or Agedama Fire?

  • Do not leave your deep-fried batter in a large pot or bowl

Vegetable, canola, and soybean-based oils tend to self-heat when mixed with other ingredients. Flour is...

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Issues Regarding On-Site Breathalyzers

A representative of a company that manufactures bar breathalyzer machines recently approached ICC at an industry trade show. He wanted Illinois Casualty Company to endorse his product and was hoping that we would consider discounting liquor liability premiums at establishments that agreed to host his machine. While a device that could reduce an alcohol-related injury might be a great idea, there are issues that a license holder needs to consider, prior to installing such a machine.

It would be hard to argue that allowing customers to test their blood alcohol content (BAC) before deciding to drive is a bad idea. But, like many issues, this one is not that simple. One concern is the accuracy of the reading provided by the breathalyzer machine. Even the most...

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The Importance of the Bar Environment

A man walks into a bar…and the last thing on his mind is the bar’s control environment. Before you yawn and scroll to the next article, this internal auditor is asking for a little leeway. A company’s “control environment” can loosely be referred to as its “culture” and involves more than just smartly arranged tables and chairs, safe lighting and walkways, or a grandiose bar. What about the people inside the establishment? We’d all like to think we can control every business situation, but reality brings me to this point: human nature is a risk.

Remember that guy who walked into a bar? Do you know what he saw, heard, and ultimately felt when interacting with employees and other customers? As human beings, we have this uncanny thing called...

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Cybersecurity Training for Your Agency

What is cybersecurity?

According to Google, it is the state of being protected (devices, software) against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data.

Why is it important?

In one way or another, every organization is at risk of a security breach. Those risks can increase depending on several factors, but you don't have to be an IT expert or work in the IT Department to know how to defend and protect sensitive data against cyber threats.

It all starts with building a culture of awareness within the company. Avoiding these risks will depend on the employees. Many threats happen because of human errors or distractions. Employees are the first point of contact of the organization and the first defense if there is an attack. One of the most common...

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Microbrewery and Taproom Safety

Breweries and taprooms have many of the same safety issues as restaurants and taverns, but with an industrial operation added into the mix. Yes, brewing beer is considered an industrial operation with all of the risks and hazards that go along with the process. Breweries are required to be in compliance with OSHA health and safety requirements and are subject to OSHA inspections.

Breweries and taprooms come in all sizes and levels of service, from a tasting room that is open only on the weekends, to a full-service restaurant and bar with live entertainment and a brewery operation. Responsible service and sale of alcoholic beverages come to mind immediately as a safety and training opportunity. Some states and municipalities require server training and even...

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Careful, That Dish is Hot!

The serving of hot dishes to patrons is often overlooked as a potential hazard in the restaurant industry. Each year, countless guests are unwittingly burned by hot dishes in restaurants across the globe. It is imperative that restaurants and other venues serving food train their servers and staff to take extra care when it comes to serving hot dishes.

Prior to bringing hot dishes to the table, the best practice is for servers to assess the temperature of each dish. Once it has been determined that a dish may be potentially hot enough to cause a burn, the server should take a moment to consider the best way to safely deliver the dishes to the guests. To minimize the risk of burns, here are three safety protocols that servers should consider.

First, when...

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The Art of Subrogation

In the restaurant and tavern business, when you hear insurance, you may think of policy premiums or claims. Very few think of subrogation. Subrogation is the process of recovering what is due from the at-fault party.

At Illinois Casualty Company (“ICC”) we go after the at-fault party for reimbursement of what we have paid for a covered loss to or for our insured.

In the restaurant and tavern business, when you hear insurance, you may think of policy premiums or claims. Very few think of subrogation. Subrogation is the process of recovering what is due from the at-fault party.

By way of example, suppose a driver runs his/her automobile into a bar or restaurant that ICC insures. Repairs on these types of matters can run between a few thousand and a few...

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Guarding Spills Saves Bills

In the restaurant industry, slip and falls happen. It is a reality of the business. What you may not know is that a business’ liability exposure in a slip and fall case increases when the condition upon which a patron falls is one that was created by the restaurant or bar. For example, when a server carries a tray of drinks to a table and the tray tips over, spilling the drinks on the floor, that condition was created by the employee of the restaurant. Now there is a giant puddle on the floor of the dining area, creating a potentially hazardous condition to unwary patrons. The employee has actual knowledge of the spill, and the law in most states is that knowledge of that hazardous condition is imputed to the restaurant when it is created by an employee....

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Security Cameras 101

The ICC Claims Department is constantly presented with great examples of why Underwriting offers premium discounts for restaurants and taverns with security cameras. One of the best examples is a claim involving an allegedly intoxicated person (AIP) who caused serious injury to a motorcycle rider and passenger. The injuries were serious and the AIP was clearly at fault. The accident occurred when he pulled out of the parking lot of our insured and struck the motorcyclist.

Fortunately, the insured had video to show that this terrible accident was not their fault. The claims notes tell the story:

Obtained statement from owner of insured business. See summary.

He has video tape showing that claimant walked into bar at 1208am, WAS NOT SERVED, and walked out...

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Dram Claims – This Round’s On Us

We understand the frustration many business owners encounter when dealing with an insurance claim. This is especially true with respect to liquor liability claims, which are often reported long after the alleged event took place and may appear frivolous in nature. However, there are plenty of attorneys out there searching for someone else to blame, and a bar is often an easy target. Customers come to most of your establishments to sit back, relax, and have a drink with friends or family. Your goal is to provide them with the best possible service, and sometimes that does mean refusing service.

That may sound counterintuitive when you are in the business of serving alcohol to patrons who frequent your establishments to be served alcohol. However,...

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Agency Internships

Is your agency planning on hiring an intern next Spring/Summer? Attracting millennials to the insurance industry through internship programs and job shadowing experiences can be a valuable tool for building your future talent pool. In the past, it was a given that an agency would be passed down through the family. Today, as many agents near retirement, not all have a traditional succession plan in place.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 400,000 employees are expected to retire from the insurance industry workforce within the next few years. “The workforce is changing, 42% of workers are over age 50 while millennials (those born after 1980) make up approximately 21% of the population.”

How can we better prepare for this paradigm shift...

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An Ounce of Prevention and a Pound of Cure

The Claims Department of Illinois Casualty Company (ICC) is always ready and willing to provide outstanding customer service whenever one of our policyholders presents a claim. Our overriding goal is to provide prompt claims service with a positive, helpful demeanor. In other words, pay the right amount at the right time while exhibiting a friendly, caring attitude.

But what about the claim before it gets to ICC? Is there anything that you, as our policyholder, can do to help prevent a claim from happening (“an ounce of prevention”) or help mitigate damages or preserve evidence once a claim has occurred (“a pound of cure”)? Surprisingly, there are many actions that you can take to work towards both ends. Many of these occur from simply being alert...

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Alcohol on Fire

In the restaurant and bar business, everyone expects alcohol to be served, but those establishments that serve their alcohol with fire create a significant risk of a resulting claim.

Lighting alcohol on fire could result in property damage to your own business. For example, your server prepares a flambéed dessert table-side and somehow the table linens start on fire and cannot be put out quickly enough. The fire spreads to burn an entire seating area, leaving the business non-operational while the smoke clears and damages are repaired. While the fiery dessert preparation may be fun for patrons to witness, that enjoyment is not worth the cost of having to shut down the business for restoration. Lighting alcohol on fire could also result in injury to a patron...

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Cyber Protection

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), “Most businesses are familiar with their commercial insurance policies providing general liability coverage to protect the business from injury or property damage. However, most standard commercial lines policies do not cover many of the cyber risks. As data breaches occur more frequently, there are additional pressures for businesses to step up efforts to protect the personal information in their possession.”

In the event of a data breach, there are many out-of-pocket expenses that a small merchant can incur, and these only increase with the size of the business. A list of some of the expenses associated with data breach is shown below:

  • Fines and Penalties - Regulations of the...
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Security Footage Protects the Innocent Tavern Owner

Illinois Casualty Company (ICC) prides ourselves on the way we fight for our insureds when a lawsuit lands in their hands. Since our inception in 1950, we have demonstrated our understanding of the hospitality niche and the unique needs of our insureds. ICC recognizes the advantages of security cameras for businesses in our niche and offers a premium credit for those that save the recorded images.

Our Claims Department encountered a great example of why we offer this credit. ICC received a liquor liability (dram shop) claim involving an allegedly intoxicated person (AIP) who caused serious injury to a motorcycle rider and passenger. The injuries suffered were serious, and the AIP was clearly at fault, as he pulled out of the parking lot of an ICC insured...

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