Can I serve liquor/beer/wine free of charge at a private event my business is hosting?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I serve liquor/beer/wine free of charge at a private event my business is hosting?

I’d like to host an invite only event and have drinks provided free to my customers all above 21 years old. Is this legal? What about if it is open to the public? I won’t be charging for drinks, I am not a restaurant, and it would be just for one night.

Asked on December 8, 2018 under Business Law, New York


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Anyone can serve alcoholic beverages at their private events.  However, if the event is going to be a large event, then you may need a mass gatherings permit and let the local law enforcement know that you will be serving large quantities of alcoholic beverages.  So...the permit is related more to the size of the event, rather than the alcohol.  Visit with your local city hall to see if you will need a permit.
A secondary issue is liability.  If someone is served too much alcohol and things get out of hand, then your insurance carrier may have certain additional requirements.  For example, they may want you to have an off duty police officer present to make sure that no one drives while under the influence.  If you have insurance, make sure that you take safety precautions to insure that you are protected financial if something goes wrong.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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