How to regulate booze at catered events

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I’ve been asked to cater a high school graduation party at a private home. The host wants food for 50 and margaritas for the adults (25 people). We agreed, and I suggested wristbands for those who are going to drink. She is ready to book, but doesn’t want guests to have to wear wristbands. I don’t want minors drinking and the alcohol is a per-person charge, so I want to keep track of it. If not wristbands, what’s another good approach to this matter?

– Chef-Owner, Mexican Restaurant, Westchester County, N.Y.


Ah, graduation season! You are right to be concerned about controlling who is served at a party that includes minors. Not doing so could hold you liable and you could risk losing your liquor license.

Despite the adage “The customer is always right,” this simply sounds like a customer in the wrong. To be sure, wristbands are not the only method of marking guests who can drink alcohol—you can card each guest, use hand stamps or use other identifiers that cannot be easily separated from the guest. Wristbrands, however, are an industry standard solution because they are nonduplicable and nontransferable, unlike drink tickets.

My advice is to state your concern clearly to the guest—not following proper alcohol service procedures puts your business in jeopardy and exposes her to unnecessary risk as the host as well. Give her the alternatives that work for you and if it’s too onerous, she can buy and serve her own alcohol as the host. I’m all for compromise, but protecting yourself and your business is nonnegotiable.

More on best practices for alcohol service here.

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