Party Foul! Protect Your Business from Liquor Liability at Company Events

Alcohol is often part of the culture at company-sponsored events. Whether it’s a ball game, picnic, or a holiday party, people enjoy the opportunity to relax and enjoy their favorite drinks. However, sponsors of these events have different concerns.

Before agreeing to serve alcohol, they need to understand that this comes with a legal liability similar to that of a bar owner. If a person at the event gets intoxicated enough to cause the death or injury of someone else, the company could be help legally responsible.

How to Eliminate or Reduce Alcohol-Related Liability

Drinking wine at a company event
photo credit: m01229

1. Opt for Alcohol-free outing

Opting to have an alcohol-free outing, including not allowing participants to bring their own alcohol to the event, takes care of the problem entirely. This is an especially good option for company-sponsored events that are open to children. The money the organization would have spent on alcohol can go to something else, such as door prizes or employee bonuses. If the event planner chooses to offer alcohol, make sure plenty of non-alcoholic beverage choices are available as well. The more choices people have, the less the opportunity to over-indulge and become dangerously intoxicated.

2. Use a third-party vendor

Having a third-party vendor serve the drinks can reduce liability. While it doesn’t eliminate it, one advantage is that professional bartenders and caterers know when someone has had too much to drink. They have been trained to refuse service and to handle these situations as delicately as possible. When choosing this option, event planners should request to see the vendor’s contract and proof of liability insurance. Some vendors may offer to enforce a Hold Harmless Agreement.

3. Stay sober!

Members of the management staff should agree not to drink alcohol at the event so they can effectively monitor it. Arranging for sober rides home in advance for those who cannot safely drive is an excellent idea as well. Additionally, management should not be afraid to state expectations of employees in advance and to confront anyone who has clearly had too much to drink. Issuing drink tickets at the start of the event limits the amount any one person can have. This is an ideal compromise between safety and the desire for participants to enjoy adult beverages.

4. Get insured

An organization putting on an event where alcohol is served must have liquor liability insurance itself. This is a supplemental insurance plan that goes beyond general liability policies. Most insurance companies exclude damages incurred by serving an under-age person or from accidents that occur due to a participant having too much to drink.

photo credit: Chris Becker

Participants Should Be Prepared to Show Their Identification

Companies putting on events where alcohol is served should let participants know they must produce their driver’s license or other identification that includes their date of birth when ordering alcoholic beverages. One problem with enforcing this is that some people at the event may have an ID from another state. This makes it harder for servers to detect counterfeits. Having an ID book in place that lists specific details of every state’s license or ID card is the best way to handle this situation.


By following these guidelines, companies can ensure that event participants enjoy alcohol responsibly and everyone gets home safely at the end of the day.