Proper Contracts and Service
Ensuring Happy Holidays
Help Make Private Parties Successful
By David T.
David T. Denney
is an attorney in
Dallas. He assists
various food and beverage
clients in corporate matters,
litigation and strategic planning.
For more information, visit
Parties and special events, especially during the busy year-end holiday season, can provide a welcome
boost in revenue. The potential for liability,
however, should not be ignored as you
book private parties or even sell out your
entire venue for corporate functions.
Promotions and contests, too, must be
viewed from the perspective of whether
they will encourage patron overconsumption or reckless behavior. A fashion show
serves a different end, in many respects,
than a wet T-shirt contest.
The very act of booking special events
comes with particular concerns for properly
writing agreements with clients and protecting yourself from the over-indulgence
that is so common during the season.
First, many operators fail to obtain a
signed special event contract that sets
forth even the basics: number of attendees, costs, taxes, cancellation policy and,
most importantly, the upfront payment.
This agreement is critical to protect your
catering or special event business, and you
should not be shy about insisting on a head-count, menu selection and down payment
(by credit card, of course) well in advance
of the event. Because these functions tend
to book in advance, the document should
include a strict cancellation policy that gets
stricter as the date approaches. Failure to
address this essential part of the agree-
The very act of booking special events comes with
particular concerns for properly writing agreements with
clients and protecting yourself from the over-indulgence
that is so common during the season.
ment can leave you hanging in the thick of
party season with an empty venue and no
realistic opportunity to book it.
The agreement is also the place to
include liability limitations for your business,
indemnification by the client, policies for
charging damages to the client, and representations and warranties from the client
that no minors will be in attendance at the
event (or, if minors will be in attendance
at the event, the procedure for and cost of
checking identification and marking those
who are underage).
When you host an event staffed by your
own employees, only use those licensed
to serve alcohol by the state. Remind them
that your standing policies against over-serving and serving minors are in effect
(you do have standing policies, don’t you?).
Do not, under any circumstances, let the
client pour their own alcohol. Remember,
though, that having these policies and failing to utilize them could be more detrimental than not having any policy (because it
suggests you knew you should have the
policy but failed to enforce it).
If you operate event space and rent it
for private functions, you might consider
requiring all clients to use professional
catering or staffing companies that will,
in turn, contractually agree to only use
licensed servers. These venues may be
eligible, too, for special event insurance
policies, which provide coverage for short
(usually 24 hours) periods of time.
In the real world, though, hosting these
events can test an operator’s customer
service skills, especially when the client
books the party with the intent that most
guests in attendance will participate to
excess. Even special events, however, are
subject to the law, and if an over-served
patron leaves your establishment and is
involved in an accident, you or your business might have to answer for it. Such an
incident could turn a profitable season into
a sinkhole of liability.
Visit with your attorney and insurance
provider to determine the proper coverage for your particular operation so you
can focus on generating revenue that will
carry the business through the post-holiday
months and beyond. NCB
4 8 Nightclub & Bar Magazine | OCTOBER 2009