Craft beer is no longer a niche interest, nor is craft brewing confined to a small corner of the beer and beverage market. In fact, at $27.6 billion in sales, craft beer now accounts for roughly one-fourth of the United States beer market. Part of what differentiates craft brewers from industry giants is their connection to the communities where they operate. In 2018, local and craft brewers filled 500,000 new jobs and generated $76 billion in economic impact, much of which remained in the communities they call home.
The local roots of craft brewers have helped drive their success and create new opportunities for growth, and many are now doing more than just selling beer. Beer halls and taprooms have become popular destinations for various event types such as fundraisers, weddings, banquets, and even weekly trivia or game nights.
As a brewer, these events are great ways to expand revenue opportunities and strengthen your profile in the community. But with more people on-site enjoying beverages, you also take on additional risks. To reduce liability exposures and ensure the health and safety of guests, your craft brewery needs an event risk management plan. Here we detail five preparatory steps to check off before you host an event at your brewery.
Five Risk Management Measures for Craft Brewery Events
1. Start with Contracts
When craft brewers lease out their space for weddings, company events, or fundraisers, other third parties such as bands, caterers, food trucks, or janitorial service companies may also be on-site providing services. Your risk management plan must include a contract with any participating vendor to set the terms of the partnership. Contracts should outline the following:
- The date, event type, and number of people
- The services, products, and spaces provided and those excluded
- Responsibilities of each party
- A clause outlining the insurance requirements of each party
To ensure contract wording aligns with actual responsibilities and eliminate any ambiguity, it is wise to consult with your insurance agent or legal counsel when drawing up contracts. These professionals can also advise you on the type of insurance each party to the contract should be required to have.
2. Ensure the Event Organizer Has the Right Coverage
Hopefully your event will go smoothly and without mishap. However, any time people gather to celebrate, especially when alcohol is involved, there is the possibility of someone getting injured or property being damaged. Possible claim scenarios include:
- An intoxicated guest slipping off of a bar stool and getting injured
- A fight breaking out among guests who have been drinking
- A guest slipping or falling on an ice patch outside during winter conditions
To protect your brewery from paying out of pocket for any injury claims or damage caused by guests, you should require both event organizers and third-party contractors to have a special event insurance policy that lists your brewery as an additional insured. Policies should also include coverage for liquor liability unless alcohol will not be served. If event organizers and contractors aren’t already aware, let them know they can easily purchase special events insurance solutions online.
3. Understand Your Capacity
Because you may be using your space differently or be expecting a higher volume of people than usual, you must be aware of the occupancy restrictions of your venue.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regulates the maximum occupancy places of assembly can hold, and you should reference these guidelines when setting guest limits.
The NFPA determines venue-specific occupancy with a formula that considers the venue type, the intended use of the space, the expected number of tables and chairs, the number of unobstructed exits, the width of said exits, and other various factors taken into account during your fire risk assessment.
Your prescribed occupancy will also dictate the on-site fire safety precautions that are required. These can include:
- Avoiding certain surface finishes
- Treating certain surfaces with fire retardant
- Installing fire alarm systems and automatic sprinklers
- Having portable fire extinguishers and emergency lighting
- Maintaining an up-to-date emergency action plan
To ensure guest safety and avoid financial or legal repercussions, make sure you will be within your legal occupancy limits before hosting a special event. If you anticipate being over-occupancy, check with your local fire department authorities to see if you can obtain an exception permit after precautions and changes to the layout are made.
4. Train Your Team to Serve Responsibly
To host events safely, the responsible serving of alcohol is key. And while it may or may not be a legal requirement in your city or state, providing your staff with alcohol server training is good practice and helps to guard against culpability in claim scenarios.
A good training program helps to educate your staff on:
- Understanding relevant laws, regulations, and legal responsibilities
- Preventing over-intoxication, drunk driving, and underage drinking
- Handling difficult customers
- Maintaining a safe and business-friendly environment
In addition to contributing to a safe work environment for your staff and leisure environment for your guests, alcohol server training is an important risk management exercise. In recognition of this, some insurance companies are now providing this training to clients and offer reduced liquor liability premiums for insureds that have their staff complete a training program.
5. Make Sure You’re Covered
In addition to requiring event organizers and participating vendors to have insurance, your brewery needs to ensure it has adequate insurance coverage as well. Most brewers have a standard insurance package that includes commercial general liability, premise liability, liquor liability, and property coverages such as building, business personal property, business income, and boiler machinery coverages. Make sure there are no exclusions on your policy for hosting large events. If there are, you may need an additional special events policy to cover all exposures.
Manage Event Risks for Success
Hosting special events at your brewery provides the opportunity to connect with new customer segments and grow your business. To fully take advantage of these opportunities, make sure you are prepared to protect the health and safety of guests and cover your liability risks with a brewery insurance policy.
To get the right coverage, consult with your insurance agent to understand the policy specifics needed to make the most of your venue and any future events.