To many, hosting a successful event goes hand-in-hand with serving alcohol. While wine, beer and spirits can add fun to a party, alcohol also adds to the liability of those planning and hosting the event.
In many instances courts have held that sponsors of events, are at least partially responsible if an impaired event-goer gets into an accident. While no technique for managing risk provides total coverage, the following are best practices for handling the added liability of serving alcohol.
- Eliminate the liability by not serving alcohol, but instead offering, creative non-alcoholic alternatives
- Protect yourself by making sure you have liquor liability insurance.
(Liquor liability coverage helps protect organizations from possible lawsuits that could arise over alcohol-related accidents. Coverage varies, but most policies pay legal fees, settlements and judgments for covered suits. Often, getting liquor liability coverage is the most prudent way to protect those hosting an event with alcohol from these potential suits.) Most of the time, getting liquor liability coverage for an event isn’t very expensive. Many insurance companies offer temporary liquor liability coverage that lasts for anywhere from 1 day to 30 days. You can often find a policy that will provide coverage only during your event and, therefore, won’t cost much.
In order to obtain a liquor liability policy, your venue or your caterer will need to have the proper licenses in place. In California, to serve alcohol, the venue either needs a full liquor license, or a beer & wine only license. These licenses are typically held by a restaurant, hotel or licensed caterer. In addition to these licenses, the licensee must also carry a 58 License (known as a “Caterer’s Permit”). This permit then allows these businesses to apply for event permits (allowing them to serve alcohol outside their licensed premises). Once approved, the permit must be on-site during the catered event.
Do the same licensing requirements apply if you are a non-profit hosting an event? No. If you are a registered and certified Non-Profit Organization (501-C3), then you may apply for a 1 day event permit (ABC 221) directly with the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). As an added precaution, you still may want to hire a caterer or licensed event staffing company to staff, serve and manage the alcohol service.
How to increase security and reduce liability at an event that offers alcohol:
Fencing. You can use fencing at larger events to control crowds, and section off bar and alcohol consumption areas from general areas (which is important if the event is open to participants under 21 years of age). Also, keep in mind, certain cities have height and other restrictions on fencing that surrounds a liquor area so that drinks are not easily passed to minors.
Security. Security is a good idea even if your event is small. An event security team can deal with a variety of issues from ID checks and controlling access to full-on risk assessment. Often just the subtle presence of a security team can put attendees at ease and prevent problems from occurring. Many venues may provide security but if you are hiring security, check that they’re fully licensed to provide complete security services. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so it’s important to make sure that your team has the correct paperwork. You’ll also want to look into their training to make sure that they’re the right fit for your type of event. If you’re planning a large outdoor festival event, a firm that specializes in close protection of individuals might not be the best fit. Also make sure that the security presence is appropriate for the size of your gathering.
Other tips managing alcohol-related concerns at an event
- Use professional bartenders – they know how to recognize people who are too inebriated to be served and they don’t tend to over-pour alcohol. (if you are hiring a bartending service ask if a Hold Harmless Agreement for the benefit of your organization is possible).
- Request evidence of liability insurance and inspect the certificates.
- Have alternative transportation in place for anyone who has had too much to drink.
Consider serving just beer and wine, no liquor. This can save money as well as help reduce the guests level of intoxication
- Limit the number of drinks that any one individual can have.
Institute a drink ticket system whereby each adult is issued or sold tickets setting the maximum amount for alcoholic beverages served at the event.
- Limit the number of hours that the bar is open. Close the bar during dinner or at another reasonable time to indicate the ending of an event. We suggest closing about an hour before the event ends, so that if anyone has had a little too much, they have enough time to sober up before leaving.
When it comes to managing alcohol at your next event, put the Relevé Unlimited years of experience to work for you.