Common Holiday Party Alcohol Liability Issues

Common Holiday Party Alcohol Liability Issues

November 11, 2022

By Marbet Lewis

The holidays are here! It's time for holiday celebrations and family get-togethers. This year, it's possible that some businesses will host a holiday party for their staff. The chance to unwind and socialize with coworkers during an office party is fantastic. However, business owners may be held legally liable for how alcohol is served at these parties. While Florida offers protections for social hosts, there is often debate as to whether a commercial business hosting a holiday party would be considered a social or commercial host.  In many cases, that determination will rest on whether any consideration was paid for attending the event, whether alcohol was sold or whether the event was intended for private guests or open to the public.  Nonetheless, there are various proactive measures and precautions business owners should consider before sending out their invitations to prevent alcohol liability issues. 

  • Always be sure to communicate with local government agencies and building management to confirm any special permitting requirements along with capacity limitations and any restrictions on event hours.  Many local jurisdictions require that businesses obtain special permits for even private events where alcohol will be served especially when the event is anticipated to draw large crowds.  Failure to obtain a required permit could result in early closure of the event and even fines. 
  • Hire security to supervise the event.
  • Be sure to hire trained and qualified staff to assist with alcohol service.  Utilize a licensed food and alcohol caterer that can provide proof of alcohol service training for its servers and bartenders. It is preferable to have a trained bartender serving alcoholic beverages even if you offer an open bar. Trained bartenders will be able to check IDs and identify any guests that may become intoxicated more effectively.
  • Be sure there is plenty of food available as long as alcoholic beverages are offered for consumption and provide plenty of non-alcoholic beverage options.
  • Supervise and restrict over-consumption by distributing limited drink vouchers. As soon as the allotted open bar tickets are used up, guests can choose from non-alcoholic beverage options or go elsewhere to continue alcohol consumption. 
  • Limit alcohol beverage options to beer and wine or pre-selected cocktails with lower alcohol by volume percentages.
  • Visibly post ride share and third-party transportation contact information.  If possible, provide transportation vouchers for use of public resources or third-party ride share providers. 

It is possible to host a holiday or end of year party at work that promotes responsible alcohol consumption and reduced alcohol liability for the business owner and host.  Just remember that event planning must necessarily include a alcohol service compliance plan anytime cocktails are also joining the party.