Summer is almost upon us! And, with it comes a plethora of exciting community events: barbecues, pool parties, music in the park concerts, movie nights, and so much more! Especially during weekend events, your community may be tempted to serve alcoholic beverages. Homeowners may request it, and social committees may conclude that these drinks will increase the attendance and quality of some events, like adult-only dinners or mixers.
However, serving alcohol at HOA-sponsored events comes with great responsibilities as there are many serious consequences that a board can incur if something goes wrong. That’s why, this week, we’re going to discuss the consequences of serving alcohol at community events and provide advice your HOA can follow to minimize your risk. Please remember that it is in your HOA’s best interests to avoid serving alcohol at an HOA event altogether for liability reasons.
If you’re planning to serve alcohol at a community event, please be aware that:
- You should never serve alcohol at an event where homeowners will have access to the pool. As we’re all aware, swimming and drinking don’t mix, just like driving and drinking. However, even if the event takes place in the clubhouse, and not the pool, homeowners may wander from the event to the water and into danger.
- If minors will be attending an HOA event where alcohol will be served, you’ll need a way to distinguish them easily from members 21 and older, such as by using wristbands and ID cards. If the party is for adults only, you should still use a form of identification—attendees may not be as old as they look.
- Security officers are required at events where alcohol is served and will be an additional cost to the association. Most event planners require one guard per every 100 guests at events with alcoholic beverages.
- The association will need a liquor license or will need to hire a caterer or bartender with insurance and a liquor license.
If you still plan to serve alcohol at your event, please follow these guidelines:
- Talk to your HOA’s attorney and insurance broker for their advice. Your board should understand the following, among other items:
- What the HOA’s insurance plan covers
- What kind of license the HOA will need (depending on whether you’re charging for the event/alcohol or serving the alcohol for free)
- What the HOA will be held liable for if someone dies or is injured as a result of alcohol consumption at the event
- Whether purchasing and serving alcohol at an event is allowed by the HOA’s governing documents
- Have an emergency plan. Who will be in charge of looking for and responding to emergency situations? How will they respond?
- Create a safe environment. Limit each person’s alcohol consumption to two drinks. Don’t serve anyone who is visibly intoxicated, and stop serving drinks thirty minutes or an hour before the event ends. You may also prepare alternative forms of transportation, such as a shuttle to and from the event, or Uber or Lyft rides.
- Hold a BYOB (bring your own beverage) event. In some cases, allowing homeowners to bring their own drinks to an HOA event can mitigate the risk to the HOA because the HOA will not be directly responsible for the types of beverages their guests will consume. However, you should still encourage homeowners not to bring hard liquors—beers and wines or non-alcoholic drinks only.
Serving alcohol at some of your classier HOA events may be tempting, but as we have shown, it is quite a complicated and potentially problematic way to draw homeowners to your community events. As an equally fun alternative, your HOA might consider serving virgin margaritas, soda-and-sherbet floats, and fresh fruit punches. These drinks look elegant, are family-friendly, and add an exquisite flavor to your events without any of the risks of alcoholic beverages.
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