Imagine your company is catering an event where alcohol is served. One of the guests has too much to drink and gets in their car to drive. They get into a wreck and suddenly you’re being sued! How can you avoid a disaster like this? The only way to completely remove liability due to alcohol is to get rid of it all together. Since that is an unlikely circumstance, it is important to know your options to limit your liability as much as possible.

1. Add Liquor Liability To Your Catering Insurance

    If you own a catering business, or any business, you know you will be purchasing insurance. However, one of the most important endorsements to have is not automatically included. Liquor liability is simple to add to your catering insurance policy, but you must specifically request it. A liquor liability policy will cover you in the event that someone or something is damaged due to the consumption of alcohol. It means that you will receive representation if a claim is filed against you. However, it won’t remove you from being liable per chance there is an obvious violation of the law, such as serving to a minor.

2. Require Servers Be Trained In Safe Alcohol Service

    When hiring your catering and event staff, be sure that you specify in a contract with your business that only employees who have taken an alcohol-awarness course will be allowed to serve alcohol. These training programs teach employees how to recognize when a guest has had too much too drink, prevent further intoxication, as well as recognize minors etc. TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) is an alcohol-awarness training program well known in the United States for certifying staff. It is important that all of your employees be able to recognize and handle intoxicated guests the right way! For more information on the TIPS program, visit

3. Develop A Plan To Prevent Guests From Getting Intoxicated

    The best plan to limit liability is prevention. It is important to create an environment at the events you cater that discourage over-indulging in alcohol. This can be done by simply placing a reminder somewhere at the event to have a good time, but to also remember to drink responsibly. There are several simple and tasteful ways to do this:

  • You can have table tents on each table or a message board at the entrance to the event.
  • You may ask the host if he/she can remind the guests to drink responsibly.
  • You can limit the type of alcohol you serve at the event. It is common place to only serve beer or wine at an event to limit the choices of the guests.
  • You may want to put a limit on the number of drinks each guest consumes. This should be discussed when you meet with your client.

4. Create Guidelines For Handeling Intoxicated Guests

    When a guest becomes overly intoxicated and unruly, you must know the proper way to handle them. You may train your staff on polite and tactful ways to tell the guest they have had too much to drink. Pulling a guest aside and privately discussing the issue with them will also save them embarrassment and you won’t have to cause a scene. In extreme cases, security and/or bouncers can escort resistant guests out of the party. It is not unusual for a client to hire security for the entire evening, as a precautionary measure. In this case, much of the responsibility that would have fallen on your employees is now the responsibility of the security team. This is something that should be discussed with your client prior to the event.

5. Make Sure Third Party Vendors Are Insured

    If a third party will be serving liquor at the event you’re catering, such as a hotel or bartender, you will want to make sure that they too have liquor liability insurance. Hotels, restaurants and bars should be compliant with the current local and state liquor licensing laws, however you should still ask for the proper documentation of this. If the third party vendor has no coverage, you may be liable for monetary damages in the event of a claim. Remember though that even if the third party has the proper liquor liability policy, you will still need one as well. Their policy serves to protect them, and them only.

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