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Serving alcohol at your event?

Alcohol Server


If your event is going to include the sale of alcohol, it is critical that you review your municipal Alcohol Policy. Ensure that your document is up-to-date and satisfies your provincial alcohol and gaming commissions’ requirements. As a best practice, you should engage a third-party organization (e.g. a professional event planner) to manage this risk.

Some municipalities may choose to do this through an existing licensed establishment or through a third-party organization like a not-for-profit community group. In either case, you should collect a Certificate of Insurance which clearly shows “alcohol liability” or “host liquor liability” in the list of coverages — the certificate should list your municipality as an additional insured. For events involving alcohol, Commercial General Liability limits should be between $5,000,000 to $10,000,000, depending on the projected size of the event.

It is critical that you work with the organization, running this portion of the event, to build a plan which creates a designated area where alcohol is allowed and a system for monitoring the presence of minors.

Wherever possible, it is recommended to serve all alcoholic beverages in soft containers. To avoid over-consumption, it is also recommended to have different style containers for beer, spirits, and wine. It is important that your organizers ensure that proper amount of trained security is located at all beer gardens and other areas in which alcohol is served.

With respect to documentation, all liquor serving licences should be kept on file. A licence must be in place for any person handling alcohol (this includes stocking fridges).

Other risk management recommendations for events involving alcohol include:

  • Be aware of guest ages and ensure only appropriate-aged guests are served. 
  • Ensure all third-party servers have smart serve certifications.
  • Ensure you obtain appropriate permitting (e.g. one-day liquor licensing) and follow the pursuant rules and regulations. 
  • Having options for safe transportation home for event goers who consume alcohol. This could mean working with local taxi companies and other transportation providers to ensure that people have access to alternative ways home. If you operate a transit system, you could choose to offer transit fares at a reduced rate on the day of the event. Make sure that transit providers have clear and safe pick-up and drop-off areas around the event.
  • Food options and non-alcoholic beverages should be available to slow the consumption of alcohol by event goers.
  • Ticket and only allow liquor purchase for a short window of time.
  • Do not announce a last call. Studies show that this increases alcohol consumption rapidly at the end of the night.
  • Consider professional security as they have experience in managing the risk of events. If you cannot obtain professional security, we suggest using volunteer security that stay sober and can be responsible for contacting the authorities, if required.

Have additional questions about alcohol insurance or special event liability insurance?

Please contact your Marsh Canada licensed insurance broker:

1 888 755 5247 | Email: events.service@marsh.com


This blog is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. The information contained herein is based on sources we believe reliable, but we make no representation or warranty as to its accuracy. Marsh shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein.