Liquor laws and liability: With today's strict liquor laws, it's always advisable to check into who assumes the liability for any alcoholic beverage service. Although the event facility and/or the caterer may carry liability insurance, the host or coordinator of the function may still be considered liable. Make sure all parties involved with the event are properly insured, and consult with an insurance agent to make sure you have appropriate coverage for yourself.
Banquet permits: In most states, functions with private hosted bars featuring hard alcohol, beer, and wine are required to have a Liquor Control Board Banquet Permit. Many banquet sites are already registered with the State to serve alcoholic beverages, while others are not. If your banquet site requires you to purchase a liability waiver or banquet permit for the day, do it! It's for your protection. Remember that only state licensed food and beverage establishments can provide no-host bars.
Hotels and off-premise licenses: Most hotels do not have off-premise liquor licenses, and their on-site licenses do not apply to events held on other properties. When planning an event at another site, make sure to obtain a one-time only license for any off-premise event.
Private hosted bars: If you are serving hard liquor (alcohol other than beer or wine) at a hosted bar, you should consider having a state-licensed bartender.
If you have a no-host bar where money changes hands, most states laws require that you have a server with a state permit showing the completion of alcohol-server education.
Advantages of hiring professional beverage servers: Beverage or catering service companies provide professionally trained staff who can handle complete bar services at your event. They take care of the purchasing, bar setup and cleanup, serving, and liability. It may be worth the extra cost to ensure that the bar will be handled in a professional and legal manner. These people are trained to detect if someone should not be served more, or if someone is underage. This service also allows you to enjoy the event without worrying about your guests.
Beverages in bulk or case discount: How do you get a good selection of beverages on a budget? Distributors, wine shops, and some stores offer variety and savings when you purchase in bulk. In some instances, unused beverages may be returned for a refund.
Control liquor and keep consumption costs down: Have a no-host bar. Shorten the cocktail reception by 15 minutes. Serve beer, wine, water, and soft drinks only; eliminate hard liquor from hosted receptions. Avoid serving salty foods (pretzels, peanuts, etc.) during hosted bars. Instruct caterers or waiters to uncork wine bottles only as needed. As a healthy alternative, offer a juice bar or an espresso bar.