Special Events and Pop-Up Bars in Florida? Guide from an Alcohol Lawyer.

Special Events and Pop-Up Bars in Florida? Guide from an Alcohol Lawyer.

December 22, 2022

By Marbet Lewis

Mobile and pop-up service concepts are gaining popularity throughout the country. Low-cost startup costs and convenient accessibility fuel the growing popularity of mobile retail stands including mobile food and alcohol bars. Who wouldn’t be a fan of bars that come to you? However, the State of Florida prohibits the operation of mobile bars as State alcohol regulations require a permanent physical structure for alcohol use approvals and alcohol license qualifications. However, alcohol catering concepts can give the appearance of mobile bar service and allow for expansion of catering services provided the catering business can qualify for a special alcohol catering license and obtain proper licensure from the Division of Hotels & Restaurants.

In other states, bars on wheels are increasing in popularity. The bar industry is worth about $27 billion in the United States, so investing in a bar can be appealing at first prior to understanding the full scope and long term financial obligations that come with operating a bricks-and-mortar bar location.  Start-up business entrepreneurs also may like the versatility of mobile operations, as events can range widely from a grand celebration to a food truck bazaar or even a business conference. Unfortunately, though, Florida does not allow mobile bar businesses.  Florida has not yet created a special alcohol license type for mobile service either from a stand-alone pop-up bar or food truck. Nonetheless, if you intend to host your event at a location that is not already licensed to sell alcohol, Florida law does provide some options for serving alcohol at your event.

  • Many food caterers are also licensed to sell alcohol at their special events. 
  • If you choose to work with a caterer, be sure that the third-party food and alcohol caterer is properly licensed by the Division of Hotels & Restaurants and holds an active 13CT alcohol license issued by the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (“DABT”). 
  • In some cases, a 4COP quota alcohol licensee may also cater alcohol in conjunction with a licensed food caterer. 
  • “BYOB” – Bring Your Own Bottle is also an option for many private event hosts. Be sure to check with your venue for any added service or corkage fees.

Liability Concerns

As with any event where alcohol is served, special care and attention must be given to checking guest ID and being sure your guests are not overserved.  It is not permissible to serve alcohol to minors even at private family functions.  To reduce these liability concerns, be sure that your alcohol caterer is properly trained in ID checking and spotting signs of overconsumption and can evidence of their most recent staff training sessions or provide confirmation of training.  Additionally, event hosts frequently control alcohol consumption by utilizing limited drink tickets or alcohol vouchers for special events and parties where alcohol is offered free of charge.  Effectively monitoring alcohol overconsumption can reduce your risk of liability and injury to guests caused by a rowdy crowd, slip and fall incidents, fights, and sexual harassment of staff and guests. 

So, if you want to host a great party that everyone will remember for the right reasons, be sure to familiarize yourself with alcohol catering requirements and be sure your selected vendors have sufficient experience and training to serve alcohol at your event responsibly. 

About the Author:

Marbet Lewis is a first-generation Cuban-American and an active member of Women of the Vine & Spirits. She has focused her practice on the laws governing the alcohol industry and the manufacture, importation, and sale of alcohol beverage products since 2004.