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Event Serving: A Guide to Alcohol Service at Special Events and Catered Affairs

8 Min Read

Whether it’s a corporate event or a large gathering for family and friends, the responsible service of alcohol is key to keeping everyone safe.

Although alcohol consumption can enhance the social experience for some people, it can also lead to challenging situations that can lead to serious harm if appropriate action isn’t taken. In this guide, we’ll outline the steps you should take when dealing with the challenges associated with serving alcohol at special events and catered affairs.

The Importance of Responsible Alcohol Service

When consumed in moderation, alcohol can be a relatively harmless way to enhance the enjoyment of social events. However, overconsumption and intoxication can lead to accidents, health issues, or even violence. Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) indicates that excessive alcohol consumption left nearly 5 million Americans requiring emergency medical care in 2021. Approximately 108,891 deaths were attributed to drinking during the same time period.

There is also the issue of underage drinking. Young people are more susceptible to the adverse effects of alcohol, increasing the risk of harm. For this reason, it’s illegal to serve alcohol to minors in the United States.

Adhering to alcohol legislation helps avoid severe penalties, which can include fines, license suspension, or imprisonment. Furthermore, responsible service protects the reputation of your business, which is critical in order to succeed in the hospitality industry.

Now that we’ve highlighted the importance of responsible alcohol service let's explore how you can do your bit to help event guests enjoy alcohol safely.

How to Serve Alcohol Responsibly at Events

There are five key considerations to be taken into account when serving alcohol to consumers at an event:

1. Know Your Audience

Understanding the demographic of your event is crucial. Tailor your service to suit the needs and preferences of your guests.

This includes being aware of the types of drinks they prefer and any special requests they might have. For instance, creating non-alcoholic drink specials can cater to guests who prefer not to consume alcohol for various reasons like health, dietary restrictions, or being a designated driver​​.

2. Legal Compliance

Always adhere to mandatory laws and regulations regarding alcohol service. This includes understanding and complying with the specific laws of your state, such as age verification for alcohol consumption and the legal limit of intoxication for driving.

Violating these laws can result in severe legal consequences, including fines and license suspension.

3. Safety First

The safety of your guests is paramount. Use a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) chart to monitor their level of intoxication and be prepared to intervene if necessary. Overconsumption can lead to alcohol poisoning and potentially dangerous alcohol-related incidents.

To accurately calculate a guest’s BAC level, you need to know the alcohol serving sizes of different beverages. Not all drinks have the same alcohol content; for example, a standard beer has a different alcohol by volume (ABV) compared to a winter warmer beer or fortified wines like port and sherry​​.

Additionally, providing information about local designated driver services can help ensure guests have a safe way home if they are too intoxicated to drive​​.

4. Quality Service

Provide a high level of service that enhances the event experience. This may include offering a variety of drink options (including non-alcoholic beverages) and ensuring timely service.

Offering food with drinks is also a good practice as it can slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream​​. Being transparent about possible allergens in drinks is another aspect of quality service, ensuring guests are informed about what they are consuming​.

5. Team Communication

Effective communication between team members is essential for smooth and coordinated alcohol service.

As well as creating a cohesive learning environment where knowledge and skills can be shared openly, alcohol servers can work together to keep patrons safe. For example, making fellow bar staff aware of intoxicated or underage customers can help them take the right approach when serving drinks to those particular guests.

The Role of Alcohol Server Training

Userve's Alcohol Server Course provides participants with the knowledge and expertise they need to consistently serve alcohol in a safe and responsible manner. The program is divided into four key segments, addressing different aspects of responsible alcohol service:

1. Impacts of Alcohol on the Body

Understanding the effects of alcohol on the human body is essential for safe service. This section explores the biological effects of consuming alcohol, teaching you how to identify signs of intoxication, measure Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), and refrain from serving alcohol to guests who are already inebriated.

Topics include:

2. Social Impacts of Alcohol

The consumption of alcohol is a common aspect of social events, especially when a celebration is involved. While most individuals will take a safe and responsible approach to drinking, it's still important for bartenders and serving staff to recognize the potentially life-threatening consequences of excessive drinking.

One such consequence is drunk-driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 37 lives are lost each day due to alcohol-impaired driving, equating to a fatality every 39 minutes.

Understanding the impacts that alcohol on society can help you deliver responsible service. This part of the Alcohol Server Course aims to heighten your awareness of the harm that can be caused by overconsumption.

It also provides insights into your responsibilities as an alcohol server, focusing on how your actions can affect people’s drinking habits. This understanding is key to creating a safer, more enjoyable atmosphere for your guests.

3. Prevention of Service to Minors and Intoxicated Customers

Serving alcohol to minors or guests who are already intoxicated is not only against the law but also poses safety risks.

As well as sharing some helpful age verification and ID checking techniques, this part of the course will teach you how to defuse potentially volatile situations involving intoxicated individuals:

  • Proper techniques for checking IDs
  • Acceptable and unacceptable forms of ID
  • How to stop service while maintaining a safe environment for customers and coworkers
  • Ways to refuse service to intoxicated customers

4. Laws and Regulations Related to Alcohol Service

Each state has its own unique laws and regulations regarding the service of alcohol. It’s vital that you are familiar with the guidelines for your region; adhering to these rules is as much about protecting customers as it is about legal compliance.

During this part of the Userve Alcohol Server Course, participants learn about the roles and duties of different stakeholders, such as the liquor authority, law enforcement agencies, and employers. The program also includes information concerning the specific laws and regulations for your state and the different types of liabilities related to alcohol service.

Alcohol Server Certification Requirements

Alcohol Server Certification requirements vary depending on which state you are located in. Here are some examples of regulations that currently exist:

  • Licensed businesses must ensure that all alcohol serving staff have a valid Alcohol Server Certificate.
  • Alcohol servers must renew their certificate every three years.
  • A supervisor with a valid Alcohol Server Certificate must be onsite at all times when alcohol is being served.

Employers should be aware of the training requirements for the state(s) in which they operate. Non-compliance with training standards could lead to administrative penalties and disciplinary measures.
To ensure servers obtain the appropriate certification, Userve offers state-specific Alcohol Server Courses. This includes government-approved training programs for California, Illinois and Michigan.

California Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) Certification Training

Userve’s RBS Certification Training Program is approved by California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

Since July 1, 2022, in accordance with the provisions of, all alcohol beverage servers and their managers working on-premises in California are mandated to complete RBS Training and successfully pass the RBS Certification Exam to comply with the legal requirements of California Assembly Bill 1221. This certification remains valid for a period of three years.

Illinois BASSET Certification Training

Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) is a requirement for both on-premises and off-premises alcohol servers in the state of Illinois.

Userve is authorized by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) to deliver the BASSET Certification Training Program, making it straightforward for individuals to achieve certification. This course ensures that alcohol is served responsibly and within the parameters of the law.

Michigan Alcohol Server/Seller Training

Userve’s Michigan Alcohol Server/Seller Training & Certification Course is approved by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC). Individuals participating in the Michigan Alcohol Server/Seller Training Program can also complete their final exam online with Userve. Certification is valid for three years.

Become a Certified Alcohol Server

Responsibility is key when serving alcohol to guests at events and catered affairs. Protect guests and your business reputation by taking part in a government-approved training program.

With course content that encompasses legal obligations, societal and physiological effects of alcohol, and strategies to prevent serving alcohol to minors and inebriated patrons, Userve’s Alcohol Server training can help ensure that guests have a safe and enjoyable event experience.

Enroll with Userve today to secure your place on a training program aligned to your state’s specific requirements, or contact us for help choosing the most suitable course for you and your business.


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