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Wine or Whine: How to Keep Everyone Happy

Event organisers will inevitably be faced with the choice of whether or not to serve alcohol at their function. This is a particularly tough decision when it comes to corporate functions such as conferences, dinners, office parties and product launches. On the one hand, you and your company are obligated to take some responsibility for the health and safety of your guests, even if this is not your legal responsibility. On the other hand, guests may expect alcohol and become quite annoyed or unimpressed at its absence.

While it should never be used irresponsibly, there is no doubt that alcohol certainly aids in relaxing guests and establishing a pleasant vibe or ambience. As the function progresses, laughter becomes louder, guests begin to dance and there is a general air of joviality.

The dangers of alcohol abuse are well documented, and reports of accidents and alcohol-related crimes grace our newspapers and televisions on a daily basis. Therefore, there is clearly a need for event organisers to find the balance and to take certain precautions if they decide to serve alcohol.

The following guidelines should prove most helpful to you, as the event organiser:

  • If it is a corporate function, inform all invited employees that attendance is most definitely on a voluntary basis.
  • Send out an official memo and / or email that advises all those invited about the alcohol policy, imploring them to be responsible and warning them that no alcohol will be served to them if they are deemed to be less than sober.
  • Never allow guests or attendees to help themselves to alcohol. Rather, opt for a bar at which they must pay cash or hand in coupons to be served.
  • Ensure that guests are informed that they are not to bring alcohol into the venue.
  • Brief any bar or service personnel and be clear in your instructions for them not to serve anyone that appears to be slurring, uneasy on their feet, aggressive and so on. Let all service staff know that they have the authority to refuse service if they need to do so.
  • Close the bar one hour before the official end of the party to give attendees time to refresh themselves with water or juice. Do not announce the closing of the bar ahead of time.
  • Watch anyone that you know to have a problem with overindulging in alcohol and be sure to make bar staff aware of the person so that they are also able to control the situation more effectively.
  • Serve only beer and wine to avoid revellers indulging in ‘hard tack’ and shooters. Also, ensure that there is plenty of water and sodas available for those trying to quench their thirst.
  • Serve salty snacks so that guests are not drinking on empty stomachs.
  • Employ a team of individuals to make their way through the venue on a regular basis to check on whether there are people that are drinking too much to be considered fit to continue.
  • Organise hired transport to be available to give anyone that is not in the right state of mind to drive a lift home. If appropriate, accommodation may also be necessary.
  • Have a ‘bouncer’ available with a digital breathalyser and get them to test everyone on their way out. This will act as a deterrent to those inside the party, who will then likely monitor their intake. It will also prevent those trying to leave the party from driving if they should not do so. If they need to, the bouncer should be able to confiscate the car keys of anyone who is adamant about driving.
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