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Liquor at an Off-Site Event – Who Can Serve

If your next event will include cocktails, wine or beer you may be wondering who is legal to serve and what if any licenses will they need to be legal. Some of the common options for servers include: caterer bartender, bartending service, venue bartender, guest self-service, or an acquaintance with drink pouring skills.

While every state has different rules regarding alcohol at events, the go-to authority on liquor in California is the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

According to the ABC, if you are hosting a public event then the servers need to be covered by an event permit called an ABC 218. This permit is held by the catering company or bartending service and allows their bartending staff to legally serve alcohol at your event. If you use a venue, the venue must have a valid liquor license and a 58 License (caterer’s permit). It may sound like a lot of paperwork, but all it means to you, is making sure you ask to see the valid permits when you hire your bartending crew for the next event.

If you are a registered non-profit and you want to hold a fundraising event, then we have good news – all you need to get is a 1 Day Event Permit and you are covered.

There is one other kind of event where a guest bar, or an acquaintance playing bartender is acceptable and that is at a private party, like a private wedding.

The ABC defines a private party as:

  • A bona fide guest list restricts access to invited guests ONLY
  • The host is providing the alcohol
  • All drinks are complimentary, i.e. hosted bar
  • There is no admission cost, no ticket price, donation or door charge

One additional thing to consider if you are hosting an event with alcohol is having insurance coverage to manage your liability. If you are a non-profit, or hosting a private party, a standard general liability policy provides host liquor liability. This covers events where alcohol is provided free to guests, but not situations where alcohol is sold. Examples of what is covered include an open bar at a holiday party, a wine tasting event for staff or donors, or providing beer at a picnic. For many nonprofits, this is adequate liquor coverage. 

However, if you are hosting a public event, you want to make sure the hosts or the venue has a liquor service insurance policy in place to make sure the event is properly covered. For more information on liquor laws in California visit the ABC website, and for tips on making your next event a smashing success contact our Relevé Unlimited team. We’re ready to help!

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