Liquor liability insurance is a type of insurance for businesses that sell alcoholic beverages. For example, a convenience store, a night club, bar/tavern or country club. Organizers of special events may, too, want or need liquor liability insurance.
Why would a business obtain this insurance? Because selling alcoholic beverages is inherently risky. The greatest (but not the only) risks are service to underage or obviously intoxicated patrons—and fights (assault and battery). Some businesses are at greater risk than others, based upon the type and size of the business and their alcohol-serving policies and practices. For example, a huge night club with live entertainment that caters to a young crowd has more risk than a café.
Liquor liability insurance is designed to defend a business against a lawsuit due to an injury, death or property damage from negligent and/or illegal alcohol service.
Having insurance doesn’t prevent liability, though. Licensed businesses are only insured to a certain level of coverage. Beyond that, the licensee is responsible for paying the claim.
In applying for liquor liability insurance, an insurance company may ask you about these or other issues:
- Entertainment (live band, etc.)
- Dance floor
- Gross annual revenues of food vs. alcohol
- Square footage of business
- Average age of patrons
- Drink promotions and happy hours
- Responsible beverage service training for all employees
- Age verification procedures
- Type of clientele (local workers vs. college students, etc.)
- History of alcohol-related problems at the business
Liquor liability insurance is important, but a business needs more to guard against liability. Implementing responsible business practices is the best protection against liability. The main responsible business practices include:
- Discouraging intoxication
- Promoting non-alcoholic beverages and food
- Promoting safe transportation alternatives
- No drinking on duty
- Responsible promotions and marketing
- Implementing comprehensive training
- Maintaining adequate number of employees to properly monitor patrons
- Having a standard hiring system
- Having a system for rewarding and disciplining employees
- Implementing and enforcing written alcohol management policies and signage
Some insurance give discounts up to 20% for businesses that implement training and responsible business practices. A qualified insurance professional can provide you with details, such as cost, discounts and coverage.
Street Fairs are a popular tradition in California and elsewhere, sometimes drawing tens of thousands of visitors. Street fairs typically provide food vendors, silent auctions, raffles, and live music. Some are focused narrowly as “beer and wine festivals.”
Non-profit 501c3 organizations often sponsor street fairs and festivals. Sponsors might include the “XYZ Street Fair,” a Chamber of Commerce or a business association, with proceeds going to charitable causes important to the community, such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Some street fairs and festivals collect entry fees, which go directly to the beneficiaries. Ticket price might include a discount at beverage booths, food tickets, commemorative wine glass, “goodie bag,” etc. Others offer entry at no cost. Often, for-profit or non-profit organizations rent beverage booths. There are even consultants who specialize in managing street fairs.
Qualified organizations that receive the proper license or permit from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) may sell alcoholic beverages at a beverage booth, beer garden or beer/wine garden.
There is no type of “blanket” liquor license the non-profit organizer obtains to allow others to sell alcohol. Rather, each organization running a booth or beer/wine garden obtains their own license or permit. All licensing or permitting for alcohol sales is subject to prior approval by the ABC, local law enforcement and the property owner.
The licensing options are:
SPECIAL DAILY LICENSE (“Temporary License”) – Authorizes the sale of beer and/or wine for consumption on the premises (e.g., street fair or festival) where sold. Issued only to existing non-profit organizations.
DAILY ON-SALE GENERAL LICENSE (“Temporary License”) – Authorizes the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits for consumption on the premises (e.g., street fair or festival) where sold. Issued only to political parties or affiliates supporting a candidate for public office or a ballot measure or charitable, civic, fraternal or religious organizations.
CATERING PERMIT (“Type 58″) AND AUTHORIZATION (Form ABC-218) – Authorizes Type 41, 42, 47, 48, 57, 75 and 78 licensees (and certain catering businesses) to sell beer, wine and spirits for consumption at approved events (e.g., street fair or festival) off their licensed premises.
WINE SALES EVENT PERMIT (Type 81) - Authorizes Type 02 (Winegrower) licensees to sell bottled wine produced by the winegrower for consumption off the premises where sold and only at fairs, festivals or cultural events sponsored by designated tax exempt organizations.
The organization who obtains a liquor license or permit must receive all of the net proceeds from the sale of the alcohol. If there is an admission charge and it entitles patrons to obtain wine, beer and/or distilled spirits, then the net proceeds from the sale of alcoholic beverages must go to the non-profit organization. If the licensee charges a separate admission and/or sells advertising specialties (T-shirts, hats, etc.), the net profits from these sales may go to someone other than the non-profit organization.
There are numerous laws that apply, including those that prohibit sales to minors and obviously intoxicated patrons. There are also more obscure laws specific to special events. For example, the role of winegrowers, beer manufacturers and wholesalers. Participating organizations should be aware of these laws to prevent the suspension or revocation of a license or permit. The goal is a safe, legal and responsible event.
Timelines for temporary licenses and permits depend upon the license you are applying for. In general, you should apply no later than 10 days before, and no sooner than 30 days before, the event.
The forms and information for getting a special event license or permit can be found on ABC’s website. For information about getting a license or permit at certain location, you should contact the ABC district office nearest the proposed site.