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Private Parties at Your Club: The Hidden Risks You May Not Have Considered

Hosting private parties at your club gives you the opportunity to provide an impactful experience to your patrons. Whether it’s a wedding, a graduation party, a corporate celebration, or another event, your club becomes the setting for countless memories to be made.

However, when you open your doors to guests for a party, you also open your doors to a variety of risks you may not have considered. Read on for tips and best practices to protect your guests, your employees, your property, and your reputation at your next event.

Liquor Liability

Alcohol is an important ingredient to a successful party for many people, and you may be expected to serve during a private event. If you chose to do so, you have a significant amount of responsibility on your hands. Those who distribute alcohol can be held liable for any damage or harm an intoxicated person causes. And if a minor is served, your club can suffer from fines, and the server may even face jail time in some cases. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to mitigate these risks.

  1. Clear guidelines: Management should establish clear policies that support and protect servers. Included in these rules should be strict ID checking, what to do in the event a patron becomes too intoxicated, belligerent guests, and other difficult situations they may encounter.
  2. Server training: Ensure your staff is trained in your policies and know how to put them into action. You can also check out private and state programs that are available. In these classes, your staff will learn how to professionally handle difficult situations and avoid illegal service.
  3. Safe ride home: Your guests’ safety is your number one priority. Create a plan to responsibly get them home—and ensure your staff members know it. Taxis, local “care cabs,” and ride-sharing programs like Uber and Lyft are all options you can pursue. You can also serve designated drivers free non-alcoholic drinks during the get-together.

Food Safety

No party is complete without some great food. Serving hors d’oeuvres, putting out a buffet, or offering made-to-order dishes are all options to keep patrons happy and full. However, nothing leaves a sour taste in a guest’s mouth quite like food poisoning. This can not only cause catastrophic harm to your club’s reputation, it can result in a lawsuit. Follow these CDC best practices for food safety to limit your risk.

  1. Cleanliness: Make sure servers and cooks regularly wash their hands as well as any utensils and countertops they use. It’s also incredibly important to separate raw meats from foods that won’t be cooked to avoid cross-contamination.
  2. Safe serving: Keep your hot foods hot (140° or warmer) and cold foods cold (40° or cooler). This can be done by using tools like slow cookers, warming trays, and ice bowls. And, of course, cook foods to a safe temperature before serving to guests.
  3. Two-hour rule: Germs grow quickly on lukewarm foods. It’s recommended that food kept at room temperature be thrown out after two hours. If it’s been sitting in an environment that’s 90° or hotter—like at an outdoor party—be sure to toss it after one hour.

Property Damage

The potential for damage to your property is always there, but the danger rises exponentially during large get-togethers. Partygoers are focused on having fun and socializing, which could lead to risky behavior—and you paying the bill. Here’s some advice for reducing the risk of damage to your club.  

  1. Valuables: If you have expensive items in your club, it’s best to keep them away from the crowd. Anything you leave out runs the risk for damage, as rowdy patrons may misuse, break, and even steal your property. Keep intoxicated drivers out of equipment like golf carts, and place your prized assets out of your guests’ reach.
  2. Unaccompanied minors: Don’t let unattended kids turn your club into a playground. Have a plan in place for staff so they know how to handle children that have gotten away from their caretaker, and make sure they’re aware of the steps they should take if they find a child who’s lost.
  3. Valet services: Offering a valet service can be a nice perk for a party, but take precautions to ensure your valets are properly screened and have the right experience before putting them behind the wheel. They’ll be handling your guests’ vehicles, and the last thing you want is to be responsible for damage to their property. If you feel uncomfortable or are unable to hire and train valets, consider contracting a third-party service. Just ensure they have proper insurance first.

While following these tips will help reduce your risk, it’s impossible to remove it completely. People make mistakes, accidents happen, things go wrong—this is especially true at parties. To ensure you’re prepared and have adequate coverage in place, contact the club industry experts at VGM Insurance & Financial Solutions or introduce us to your broker.

David A. Harnois, CCM, CPL, is a proud employee owner of VGM Insurance & Financial Solutions, specializing in commercial and group program business. He provides insurance solutions for clubs through his VGM Club endorsed program. Contact David at 319-800-6676 or at david.harnois@vgm.com.

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