LawFit: Serving Free Alcohol at Your Box May Not Be Legal

Nov 17, 2019 by

A free ice cold beer after Murph, a glass of wine on yoga night, a keg to celebrate the end of the Open; you know the drill.  As box owners, providing your members with free alcoholic beverages is a great way to attract people to the event and build your community. But, is this activity legal, or does your box need an alcohol beverage license?  

Rule: The answer is not clear; it depends on the state, city, and/or licensing authority as each differs in law and interpretation. States like Minnesota interpret the controlling law broadly and take the position that any alcohol served, free or not, in a business where “commercial activity” is occurring means that a sale of alcohol is taking place. A sale of alcohol requires the business to be licensed, which is costly and a highly regulated process.  

Applicability: So, that free beer you’re offering is equivalent to, in the eyes of some, selling it because it’s tied to all the other commercial activity occurring at the business (i.e. event participants are paying members, T-shirt sales, entry fees, etc.).  

Take-away:

  • Consider consulting with a local attorney to understand the laws and, if applicable, weigh the potential risks, liability, and exposure for operating without a liquor license. 
  • Alcohol licenses are expensive and can be cost-prohibitive for boxes that just want to do something nice for their customers.  
  • Consider hiring a licensed liquor caterer for your events.

Disclaimer: This post was created for general informational/educational purposes only. The information is not privileged and does not create an attorney-client relationship with the author. Nor is the post an offer to represent you. Its information should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. You should not act or refrain from acting based upon any of the information on this site and are urged to consult a licensed attorney for legal advice on your specific situation.


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