QUESTION: We have frequent problems with alcohol at the pool where people are drinking all day. They are getting drunk and causing problems for staff and guests. Additionally, some of the containers are glass which break and cause safety hazards. Can we search coolers to prevent glass and alcohol from being brought into the pool area?
ANSWER: Yes, you can.
Potential Liability. Your board is already on notice of three sources of serious injury: broken glass, altercations and drownings--all related to alcohol at the pool. If injuries occur and litigation erupts, directors could find themselves in front of a jury answering questions about why they did nothing to protect members from injury or death.
Privacy Issues. Inspecting coolers is a reasonable solution. It's easier to stop alcohol at the gate than to force a combative drunk out of the pool area. Is this an invasion of privacy? Sports stadiums, concert venues, and airports inspect backpacks, coolers and luggage every day without violating the law. If someone refuses to open a cooler, they can leave it outside the pool gate.
Recommendation: If you don't have rules against alcohol and glass at the pool, you need to properly adopt them. If rules are already in place, you don't need to revise them to include inspection of coolers. Even so, you should give notice to the membership that you will be inspecting coolers. Make sure you explain why--to protect the safety of those using the pool, to avoid costly litigation, and to keep insurance premiums down.
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