Host Liquor and Retail Liquor - The Differences Explained

June 21, 2024

When planning an event where alcohol is on the menu, it is extremely important that the event host include liquor liability insurance as part of their special event insurance package. In the special event world, there are two basic types of liquor liability insurance. Both types protect against alcohol-related incidents, but they apply in different situations for different entities. Understanding these differences is crucial for ensuring you have the appropriate coverage for your event.

Host liquor liability insurance is designed to protect individuals or organizations that are providing alcohol at an event but are not in the business of manufacturing, serving, or selling it (not making money off the sale of alcohol). This type of insurance is intended to protect the event host and cover claims related to alcohol-related incidents, whether served by the venue, a licensed and insured bartender, or guests serving themselves. Host liquor liability must be tied to a specific event, meaning coverage is only provided during the event itself. It protects against third-party claims for bodily injury or property damage resulting from the actions of intoxicated guests. It also includes coverage for legal fees, medical expenses, and potential settlements or judgments arising from lawsuits related to alcohol-related incidents.  

Retail liquor liability insurance, on the other hand, is intended for businesses that manufacture, distribute, sell, or serve alcohol as part of their commercial operations. This coverage is critical for businesses like caterers, bartenders, bars, restaurants, liquor stores, breweries, wineries, etc. Retail liquor liability provides continuous coverage as long as the policy is in force and is not limited to specific events. It covers a much broader range of alcohol-related incidents, including serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals. If a patron becomes intoxicated at a bar and subsequently causes harm, the business could be held liable, and this insurance would cover the costs. It also can include coverage for legal fees, medical expenses, property damage, and potential settlements or judgments related to claims of negligence.

Summary of Differences

  1. Scope of Coverage:
    • Host Liquor Liability: For non-commercial hosts serving alcohol at private events.
    • Retail Liquor Liability: For businesses that sell or serve alcohol commercially.
  2. Duration of Coverage:
    • Host Liquor Liability: Event-specific, covers only the duration of the event.
    • Retail Liquor Liability: Continuous, covers the business operations for multiple event dates as long as the policy is active on the dates in question.  
  3. Legal Requirements:
    • Host Liquor Liability: Not generally mandated by law but highly recommended for event hosts.
    • Retail Liquor Liability: Often required by law for businesses that sell alcohol.
  4. Risk Management:
    • Host Liquor Liability: Focuses on protecting event hosts from incidents involving intoxicated guests.
    • Retail Liquor Liability: Addresses the broader risks associated with the commercial sale and service of alcohol, including regulatory compliance and responsible service practices.

At we include host liquor liability on all event policies at no additional charge. Providing peace of mind and protection against most alcohol-related incidents in the overwhelming majority of events. We use the term "Host" on our certificate of insurance to make sure that nobody is confused and thinks they have full-blown liquor liability coverage insurance(retail liquor liability). The box for “Retail Liquor Liability” is not checked on the policy form because it is not included. Again, that coverage is designed for operations that are in the business of manufacturing, distributing, selling, serving or furnishing alcohol. 

‍Including host liquor liability insurance as part of your special event insurance policy is a smart, proactive step in protecting yourself, your guests, and your event. While it’s essential to have fun and enjoy the festivities, ensuring you have the proper coverage will help you manage risks effectively and provide the assurance needed to host a successful and memorable event.

This information is provided to assist you in understanding the coverage being offered and does not modify the terms and conditions of any insurance policy, nor imply a claim is covered. Specific coverage terms vary by class of business. See your policy for full details.