Should You Serve Alcohol at Company Parties?

Alcohol is sometimes expected to be served at corporate parties and events, but it’s not always the best idea. The legal risks of serving alcohol are great, and if you’re considering serving alcoholic beverages, like beer, wine, or mixed drinks at a company event, here are some important things to consider first.

Outdoor office party

1. Is it legal for you to serve alcohol in the first place?

First and foremost, you need to know if you can legally serve alcohol at your function. If it’s not legal, don’t do it because you can get your business license suspended. If it is legal, make sure your lease allows it, or you could find yourself facing an eviction.

There might be more legalities involved if you’re hosting the event on private property and serving alcohol from an outdoor bar in someone’s backyard. It can be a fun experience, but make sure it’s legal. If not, you can still serve non-alcoholic beverages from an outdoor bar and create a fun experience for everyone who attends.

If you are operating a business inside of another business and you’re not the main leaseholder, the legality of serving alcohol might be tricky. Even if there is nothing illegal about it, you will be bound by the terms of your sublease and the agreement in place with the larger business. In this case, contact the person in charge of the main business and ask them what the policy is for consuming alcohol on the premises. If they say it’s okay, make sure you get that in writing before hosting your event.

2. Can you moderate intoxication levels?

Most people can handle a couple of beers or glasses of wine over the course of an event, but sometimes people will go overboard and drink too much. According to statistics, about 20% of people binge drink at corporate parties.

Before serving any type of alcohol, think about how you might control the amount each person drinks to prevent intoxication. For example, you can limit drinks to 1 per person and only serve alcohol for the first 30 minutes of the event so everyone has time to sober up before leaving. This won’t make a lot of people happy, but at least they’ll be able to get one drink.

Another thing to seriously consider is making everyone agree to a breathalyzer before leaving the event. This is something you’ll need to get in writing with each person’s signature indicating their explicit agreement, and you’ll want to talk to an attorney about this first. However, if you get clearance from your attorney, it would be a great measure to protect yourself from liability.

3. Do you have good insurance?

Insurance is a must when serving alcohol, and if you don’t know what your policies cover, find out as soon as possible. Never start serving alcohol at a company function without knowing for sure that you’ll be covered if anything happens.

For instance, if someone gets intoxicated and drives off and crashes into a tree or another car, you could end up getting sued for serving the alcohol. You need insurance that will cover your legal fees.

Here are just some of the problems that can arise from serving alcohol:

  • Employees getting sick (alcohol poisoning)
  • Inappropriate behavior or conversations
  • Fighting
  • Drunk driving
  • Injuries from falling
  • Broken objects
  • Underage employees drinking

Some of the consequences for these issues aren’t covered by insurance. For example, if someone gets sexually harassed, you’ll have to deal with the entire issue in the same way as if it happened during work hours. It will be a lot of paperwork and covering your bases when you take action. So, while insurance is good to have, don’t rely on it for everything.

4. Will your event be just as good without alcohol?

Although many employees have become used to being served alcohol at corporate functions, your event should stand on its own and be just as good without alcohol. If people are bored with your company events, bring in live entertainment, give them a fun theme, or invite an interesting speaker.

Before serving alcohol, consult with an attorney

As with anything risky, consult with an attorney before serving alcohol at your corporate events. They’ll help you understand all the possible risks and consequences if something goes wrong, and then you can make your final decision based on all the information.

Keep in mind that just because employees expect to be served alcohol doesn’t mean you have to oblige. Company events are supposed to be fun and a way to connect with other people. Alcohol can certainly make that easier for some people, but it’s not necessarily worth the risk.


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