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EXECUTIVE BRIEF: Seriving Alcohol - What Party Hosts Should Know

March 2017

A person's role as a responsible party host can keep friends and family protected. Social responsibility is a term that includes everything from planning to overseeing the party.

What Hosts Should Understand
Do not rely on coffee to help the guests sober up. Only time can make a person sober, and hard liquor will intoxicate people as much as beer or wine will. A 12-ounce can of beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce wine cooler and one and one-half ounces of liquor each contain the same amount of alcohol.

Do not rely on appearance and actions to determine if a guest has had too much to drink.
Mixers will not help dilute alcoholic beverages, and carbonated beverages such as club soda or tonic water promote quicker absorption of alcohol into a person's bloodstream. Fruit juice and other sugary mixers mask the taste of alcohol in a beverage and may cause a person to drink more.

Office Parties
Arrange for discounted or complimentary rooms when a party is held at a hotel so employees will not drive home drunk. Consider chartering a shuttle or limousine service to provide transport for those who have been drinking. Promote the non-drinking designated driver idea when sending out party invitations. Do not push drinks on people. When offering an open bar, be certain the bartender has had server training to prevent guests' over-consumption, and be sure the bartender knows how to avoid serving alcohol to guests who may be under the legal drinking age. To encourage party participants to drink less alcohol, consider having a contest for workers to think of creative non-alcoholic drink recipes.

Planning a Party
A host has to be prepared to dodge some curve balls and juggle the unforeseen when hosting a party and protecting guests. Hosts know that part of showing guests a good time is making sure they make it home safely. Dealing with driving safety is an important obligation, and there are several helpful tips to help hosts throw a successful party without sacrificing caution. These include the following:

  • Plan activities such as sports, door prizes or amateur fortune-telling.
  • Give each person a specific task to do to lessen their likelihood of drinking too much.
  • As visitors RSVP, confirm that each carpooling group will bring a designated driver.
  • Offer plenty of food to keep guests from consuming alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • Avoid salty or empty-calorie snacks, which tend to make people parched and drink more.
  • For non-drinking guests, offer mocktails or non-alcoholic beverages.
  • When preparing an alcoholic beverage, use non-carbonated mixers such as fruit juice.
  • Be prepared by having the number of a cab service on hand for those who need a ride.
  • Make sure there is a place for people who over-indulge to sleep comfortably.

Throughout the Party
Never offer alcohol to someone under the lawful drinking age, and never ask young kids to assist in serving alcoholic beverages at parties. Do not let guests mix their own drinks. Hiring a dependable and experienced bartender will help hosts keep track of how many drinks each person consumes and prevent guests from becoming dangerously intoxicated. If a guest seems to be consuming a bit much, offer to refresh his or her drink with a non-alcoholic option. Consuming alcohol at a party is not necessary to have a good time. Have fun but not too much fun. To be a good party host, a person should stay within his or her personal bounds to ensure visitors stay within theirs.

It is helpful to close the bar 90 minutes before the party ends and start offering coffee and refreshments. However, keep in mind that only time sobers someone who has been consuming alcohol. If some visitors drink too much despite careful efforts, let them stay over, send them home in a cab or arrange for them to ride with another guest who hasn't been consuming alcohol. Whether they are aware guests are drunk or not, hosts can be found liable for DUI accidents if their intoxicated guests drive home and cause an accident.

The Insurance Coverage
Most commercial general liability policies include the liability you assume upon serving liquor. Liquor liability coverage is not extended if you are in the business of manufacturing, distributing, selling, serving, or furnishing alcoholic beverages. If you serve alcohol at something such as an office Christmas party, your liability coverage would fall under host liability under your general liability policy. Host liability offers coverage for bodily injury or property damage arising out of the serving or distribution of alcoholic beverages by a party not engaged in this activity as a business enterprise.

Are you having a party as an individual? Your homeowners liability typically extends to cover you should you be deemed negligent in the case of an alcohol-related claim, as long as you were not selling the liquor (or doing anything illegal, such as serving it to minors). If you have parties often, consider increasing the limits of your personal umbrella to ensure adequate coverage.

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