Feature Article - September 2010
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Fun For The Whole Family

Waterpark Options for All Ages

By Dawn Klingensmith

Hurricane Harbor's liquor license was granted more than a year after the park's initial application, which when submitted sparked hundreds of protest letters and phone calls. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission decided to hold a public hearing, where the city's mayor spoke out against the application; however, after denying an appeal for a second public hearing, the commission granted the license on the grounds it did not pose a threat to public safety.

Still, "There are a lot of potential risks. An intoxicated patron is more likely to lose their footing on slippery surfaces and to disregard rules designed to keep swimmers safe," said attorney and consultant Katharine Nohr, Nohr Sports Risk Management, Kaneohe, Hawaii.

Aside from injuries and drowning, medical problems can result if a person drinks too much and becomes dehydrated or overheated, or throws back a few icy-cold brews while soaking in a hot tub, she said. Drinking in hot tubs can cause drowsiness and heartbeat irregularities, among other potential health threats.

A drunken guest can spoil or compromise everyone's experience, and not just by acting boorish. The person could vomit in the pool, forcing an evacuation for cleanup. And where judgment is impaired and bodies are on display, sexual harassment and assault could occur, Nohr pointed out.

Accordingly, alcohol liability premiums are rising, due in part to increasingly convincing fake IDs, stricter regulations known as "dram shop laws" and the threat of litigation. Waterparks that run afoul of the law face costly criminal charges and civil suits. Applicable to waterparks, dram shop laws allow for an establishment and its owners and employees to be sued by someone injured by a patron who had been drinking alcohol at the establishment.