Party Planning Primer

April 07, 2011

Shelley Timms, B.A., LL.B., LL.M.
Timshel Services Inc.
Alcohol Risk Management

As the holiday season draws closer, we tend to think about parties – but while the focus of a party is to have fun, there is some planning required to insure that they are fun.

Too often in the search for the best party plan, we forget that we need to understand the role of alcohol in the party and how it can make or break it. Taking the time to think about alcohol service will better insure that our guests have a good time AND get home safely.

What are the basics?

  1. It is always about insuring that our guests are safe, both at the party and in the process of returning home.
  2. Do we have adequate liability insurance? What is the coverage — does it include service of alcohol? How much coverage do we have and is it enough? (Keep in mind that many alcohol related incidents are serious and can result in significant injuries which can mean significant damages/money).  Does the insurance cover the location where the party is located? Are there other sources of insurance — caterer, restaurant/banquet hall?
  3. Are there any potential problems where the party is located? For example, do the guests need to take stairs to use a washroom and are the stairs safe? Are there other occupiers’ risks? Hosting a safe party is not just about making sure that guests don’t drink and drive but that they aren’t injured at all because of too much drinking.
    Even if you are renting the place for the event, you are considered an “occupier” in law, so you have a responsibility to be sure that the premises are safe, the activities at your premises are safe, and the condition of your guests is safe.
  4. Who is invited? Let’s face it, there are some people who don’t know when to stop drinking and could start an “issue”. There needs to be someone to observe or “track and monitor” guests and that needs to be determined in advance. Further, set out some ground rules in advance.  Another point, how many are invited? In this day of texting, who is invited needs be clear. The party may need to be closed to only invited guests with proof. “Strangers” could bring unwanted trouble.
  5. On the invite, ask people to take a cab or to establish a designated driver to avoid “issues”.

At the Party:
1. Someone needs to be the Designated Greeter to “Meet, Greet and Repeat” — be sure to try to meet and greet everyone at the door as they arrive. We know that there may be “priming” in advance of the event. You want to know what shape they are in as they arrive and whether they should have any further alcohol. You also want to say good bye to everyone to insure that they are OK as they leave the event.

2. Place a focus on food. Yes, this is the time of year that everyone seems to gain a bit, but take the time to really serve a good spread, including non-alcoholic drinks. Keep in mind that protein/fat rich food will help slow the absorption rate of alcohol into the blood stream. Salt-heavy foods simply encourage people to drink more, and sugar-heavy foods could have an adverse reaction with alcohol.

3. Keep the alcohol in one central place. Hire a bartender (with insurance of course) if the location is on-campus. But keep in mind that you are the host and are responsible for knowing what your guests are consuming.

4. Stop serving alcohol some time before the end of the event, usually one hour. Do not announce last call, just stop the service.

5. Keep cab numbers handy, on speed dial or written and by the phone. If there is a guest that seems to have imbibed too much, call the cab and then try to reason with him/her. If a cab is right there, then it is easier to persuade a guest to leave his/her car keys with you and take the cab.

6. If an issue of too much aggression comes up, don’t be a hero. Call the police and keep other guests away from this person. Do not try to become physically involved as it will likely result in injuries to you and the intoxicated person.

7. If a guest leaves and you know that that person has been drinking and you even suspect that he/she is driving, call the police. Don’t hope for the best, just make the call.

Keep in mind that while the festive season brings party planning more attention, this is a whole year issue – end of school year banquets, various campus event and festivals such as Homecoming, Halloween, Spring Break and major sports events.

Good planning will allow all of us a good night’s sleep!

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