Insights

Alcohol at Company Events: Risk Management Guidelines

August 22, 2019

Property & Casualty

No amount of monitoring and enforcement can make up for poor event planning, especially when it comes to alcohol at your company sponsored event. Giving full attention to the role of alcohol in planning, policies, and procedures for your event will help minimize the associated risks, including accidents, injury, and harassment.

Image of six people in business suits holding champaign glasses

Consider the following basic guidelines when you are planning an event with alcohol:

  • Review local and state laws regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol. You may need to obtain a special license or permit from a local government agency to serve alcohol during your event.
  • Confirm with a prospective venue or landlord that serving alcohol is permitted and ask about any additional requirements that may be necessary such as: 
    • a licensed bartender/caterer
    • security service tasked with checking identification and controlling general venue access and the timing for “last call”
  • Consider serving only beer and wine, not liquor or mixed drinks. 
  • Determine who will be serving the alcohol.

 

If this is a larger event in scale, consider the following:

Hire a Qualified Third Party Catering Vendor

It is best to rely on the skill and experience of a well-qualified caterer, licensed to handle the dispensing of alcohol at your event. To formalize the arrangement and risk transfer, I advise implementing a mutually agreeable contract. Ensure that the agreement contains provisions which transfer risks for their services appropriately to them. These provisions should include indemnification of your organization and require the vendor to name your organization as an Additional Insured on their Commercial General Liability insurance policy. This provides protection for the organization under the vendor’s policy.

Use Effective Signage and Enforce Controls 

  • Place prominent signage at the venue entrance, stating the rules about general personal conduct and alcohol in particular.
  • Inside your event, clearly visible signs about identification and drink limits will help servers adhere to the policies you have established. Consider providing a set number of tickets per guest/attendee or a two-drink maximum.
  • Always offer non-alcoholic alternatives. Always serve food. 
  • Develop controls, with caterer and security service, if applicable, to ensure underage and intoxicated guests aren’t served. 
  • Consider limiting your guests to people 21 and older. Clearly state any age restriction in the promotions, tickets, or event invitations. 
  • During the event, be sure all entrances are manned by your staff/volunteers or hired security service. Verify tickets and invites. Have qualified ID checkers for anyone who looks under the age of 30. Do not allow any exceptions.
  • If minors are welcome at the event, require that people who wish to drink wear wristbands upon age verification. Restrict consumption to a designated area for large events with younger attendees.

Handle Intoxicated Guests with Care

Companies may be held liable should a guest injure a third party after your sponsored event. Despite your best efforts, you may need to deal with a drunk guest and mitigate the risk they may pose to themselves or others. Prior to the event, develop a clear strategy to prevent and address this situation and share amongst the key organizers and vendors. Suggestions include: 

  • Encourage the caterer/bartender to use full discretion in cutting off any intoxicated persons. Better yet, a two drink policy allows a server to simply appeal to the policy and minimize any disputes. 
  • Designate a “bouncer” for the event or hire a security service for your event. If an intoxicated guest becomes disruptive or unruly, designated staff should quietly ask them to leave the event space. Appeal to their companions to encourage compliance with requests.
  • Set a “Last Call” at least one hour before the event ends to lessen the likelihood of an intoxicated guest getting into a vehicle. 
  • Serve more food and non-alcoholic drinks towards the end of your event.
  • Ensure any intoxicated guests make it home from your event safely.

Promote Safe Transportation

A guest driving after your event is the largest single risk to an organization hosting an event with alcohol. According to the NHTSA, every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes—that’s one person every 48 minutes in 2017. The primary risk management goal of every event must be to prevent drunk driving

Suggestions include:

  • Discourage employees and guests from driving to the event venue. Arrange shuttles or transportation to and from the event. Without personal vehicles nearby, the risk of departing guests driving drunk is reduced dramatically.
  • If guests may drive to the venue, encourage designated drivers by providing them with free nonalcoholic beverages, food, door prizes, or special incentives and consider asking for volunteers to commit prior to the event.
  • Provide designated drivers with a wristband for easy identification.
  • If group shuttling is not practical, make advance arrangements with a local cab company/ride sharing service for free/reduced fare rides. Encourage public transit and provide information to guests about alternate forms of transportation available. Have event staff/volunteers providing transportation assistance to anyone who may need help. Allow discretion of event staff/volunteers in arranging for local lodging, if absolutely necessary.

You will effectively minimize the risks associated with serving alcohol at your event by adhering to these commonsense guidelines. Executing your plan will go a long way in protecting your business, and most importantly, your employees and guests. With forethought and planning, your employees and guests will enjoy a smoothly run event that is remembered for all of the right reasons.

For more information, reach out to me or your Woodruff Sawyer account team.

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All views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the position of Woodruff-Sawyer & Co.

Wade Pederson

Senior Vice President & Partner, Property & Casualty and Management Liability

Contributor, Property & Casualty

Wade specializes in property & casualty and management liability exposures for companies in all stages of growth and risk complexities. Wade’s expertise across the spectrum of business risks enables him to take a holistic approach with clients. He manages client relationships and works directly with insurance markets to negotiate and place programs.

415.399.6354

LinkedIn

Wade Pederson

Senior Vice President & Partner, Property & Casualty and Management Liability

Contributor, Property & Casualty

Wade specializes in property & casualty and management liability exposures for companies in all stages of growth and risk complexities. Wade’s expertise across the spectrum of business risks enables him to take a holistic approach with clients. He manages client relationships and works directly with insurance markets to negotiate and place programs.

415.399.6354

LinkedIn