Quick, name two things you don’t think about when you have an idea for an event. If you said a liquor license and event insurance, you would be correct. But these two things quickly become the worst part of planning and at some point will make you want to pull your hair out.
We wanted to solve this headache for ourselves, and then thought we may as well solve it for you, too, because we’re all in this together, right? The first thing to know is that liquor licenses vary by state. This means we can’t give you one perfect answer, but we can give you some clear guidelines. The second thing to know is that finding information isn’t easy. State liquor board websites have not changed since 2007. As in, we’ve checked the Internet Archives and they literally have not changed. But there’s hope! Oregon has a pretty clear definition and we think it’s great place to start. Their website says that a liquor license is needed at an event where:
In plain English, if you are selling alcohol or pretending not to sell alcohol but really selling alcohol, you need a license.
A liquor license is not needed at special events where you are making alcohol available, but there is no payment or purchase required, and no donations of money are accepted (for alcohol, for entry, for admission, or for any other product or service at the event). We’ve figured out one simple question to ask when it comes to events, booze, and getting a license: Are you having a wedding and are your parents picking up the full tab? If the answer to this question is no, then you probably need a license.
Keep in mind, there are subtle difference between states. For example, in Indiana, you can only get a license for beer and wine. If you want to serve liquor, you need a licensed caterer. To confirm what happens in your state, google “temporary liquor license for an event” and then type in your state or city. You’ll need to use those exact words, because a “special event license” is a thing, and your event probably isn’t that thing. If you are hosting your event somewhere that already has a liquor license and using their staff, you will not need a separate license.
Now that we’ve got that sorted, event insurance is going to seem easy. For any event, but especially those with alcohol, it’s wise to have event insurance. Even venues that already have a liquor license will probably ask you to get additional event insurance. This is easy to do. Call up your regular insurance provider and they will give you a quote. You can also do this online. The cost will start at about $40 for a small event with no alcohol, but if you are looking for around $1 or $2 million in event insurance, we’re guessing it’ll cost you somewhere around $400.
That’s it! Now go forth and toast your newfound knowledge with a signature cocktail at your event.