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Host Liquor Liability: Everything You Need to Know

Business Insurance

By Samantha Lemna | September 24, 2019

Did you know you can be held accountable for injuries or damage which occur as a result of serving alcohol? If you’re hosting a special event that includes alcohol host liquor liability insurance can protect you or your company or organization if something goes wrong.

We’ll review what host liquor liability covers its different forms and who needs this coverage. We’ll also give you some tips on how to reduce the chance of an injury or damage happening on your watch.

What is host liquor liability?

If you serve alcohol at an event you can be held responsible for the actions of your guests including injury and property damage. This is particularly true if you serve people past the point of intoxication.

Host liquor liability insurance helps protect you or your business from alcohol-related injury or damage claims if you serve liquor at an event. Often this insurance is required by venues.

For example let’s say you’re hosting a holiday party for staff at a local venue. You’re serving alcohol and one employee was overserved to the point of being very visibly intoxicated. The employee gets in his car and drives home getting into an accident on the way. The other driver involved sues your company – and you could be held liable. Regardless you’d be on the hook for those legal expenses. Host liquor liability could help cover those costs.

Host Liquor Liability vs Liquor Liability

Host liquor liability is for businesses or individuals that serve alcohol at an event.

Liquor liability is for businesses that specifically sell serve or manufacture alcohol.

Why do you need host liquor liability?

As an employer you have responsibility for your premises and employees. If you serve alcohol at an event you also have liability as a server because anyone involved in serving alcohol could be held responsible for damage or injuries if that alcohol is considered to be a contributing factor.

You could face extensive legal expenses if you’re sued. Host liquor liability can help reduce this financial burden for you or your business.

Finally many venues require you to have this protection. Make sure you understand the venue’s insurance requirements when you sign the contract or agree to rent it for your event.

What is covered by host liquor liability insurance?

Host liquor liability covers legal expenses relating to a claim of injury or property damage where alcohol consumption is a factor. This can include:

  • Defence costs including attorney and court fees
  • Damages if you’re found liable in a court
  • Settlements if you want to settle out of court

Some policies also include additional coverage for violence or specific incidents resulting from alcohol consumption at an event.

Keep in mind that you’ll have a policy limit which is the maximum amount your host liquor liability policy will pay out for a covered claim.

Every policy is different so it’s important to discuss your needs with a broker and ensure you understand what’s covered.

How much does host liquor liability cost?

The rates for this coverage are dependent on the type of event you are hosting how many patrons will be present and whether or not there will be anyone underage attending. Ensure that you provide your broker with all the necessary information when you request a quote.

Is host liquor liability included in commercial general liability?

Some commercial general liability insurance polices do include host liquor liability coverage. Talk to your broker to ensure you’re covered for the events you plan to host. You may need to purchase additional coverage in this area.

However if you’re hosting your event as an individual you’ll need to purchase your own host liquor liability protection.

Liquor Licenses

Liquor licenses must be purchased by any individual or business that wants to sell or supply alcohol. There are a number of different types of liquor licenses. Here are the ones that would most likely apply here:

You can apply online for a license or view a full list of available liquor licenses on theAlberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis website.

Your insurance company may also require you to have a liquor license for your coverage to be valid.

Risk Management for Host Liquor Liability

While you can never eliminate every risk there are steps you can take to minimize the chance of an incident. To protect yourself your business your employees and the general public consider doing some of the following:

  • Identify designated drivers so that they won’t be served (with a wristband).
  • Offer designated drivers special incentives like free entry or free non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Have vouchers or cash on hand if anyone needs a taxi home.
  • If someone is intoxicated ask for their keys and help them get home safe.
  • Establish and communicate expectations around behaviour and drinking before the event including alternative methods of getting home.
  • Make sure non-alcoholic beverages and food are available.
  • Have staff trained in the appropriate service of liquor.
  • Consider offering or reserving rooms at or near your venue for those that may want or need to stay.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the end of the event.
  • Talk to your broker about risk management for events and about host liquor liability insurance. If you have any questions leave them below!

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