Debating About Serving Alcohol at Art Events

Lets face it, we’ve all done it. That nonchalant bottle of wine sitting among the free snacks during an open studio event. You’ve probably thought, its not the best idea, but you’ve never had an issue serving alcohol at your art event in the past.

This blog post covers the topic of wine culture at art events and some considerations about serving in your studio. While we won’t provide you with a recommendation, this post can at least provide you with some pros and cons to help you decide whether or not you continue taking this risk.

Wine Culture: Its a common practice, and sometimes even expected by guests, to have some free wine (or other alcoholic beverages) at art events like an open house, studio tours, or opening reception at a gallery. This practice has become apart of the culture of art events. Many of us have served wine out of our studio to the public.

Alcohol and Gallery Openings:  The party and celebration vibe may be what you are going for during a big art opening. This can relax friends and family who maybe don’t go to too many art exhibits. A glass of wine can ease an uncomfortable collector or buyer into the gallery. It can also loosen you up a bit to talk to strangers about your work (But don’t overdo it). Oftentimes serving alcohol is at the digression of the gallery. Whats great about this option is that the gallery will be in charge of serving and will handle all of the permits and laws.

Alcohol and Open Studios: Determine the atmosphere you are going for with your open studio event. Too much wine and drinking can turn an open studio into a party vibe and turn potential guests away. The culture of free wine will also attract the wrong crowd. Some (ahem….Art-a-Whirl) open studio tour events have turned into more of a brewery and cocktail tour, and less about the artists. Drunk visitors and people touring your space who have spent too much time at the bars makes for a frustrating weekend because creatives want to get to know their audience, showcase work in progress, invite people to future shows and make sales.

Leaving the bottle of wine on a snack table is a liability. Underaged kids can potentially drink your alcoholic beverages and as the technical server, you will be responsible. The best way to have alcohol in your studio is with a small group of friends, collectors, or potential buyers during a private studio gathering, not a public open event. This is how you can get around the liabilities of serving, the key here is private event versus public opening.

Insurance: Your studio insurance provider will oftentimes ask if you are serving alcohol in your space (or during events) and will adjust your insurance prices according to your answer. You will need to let your insurance provider know if you are serving because if an alcohol related accident occurs in your space, you are going to need the support of your insurance company to cover the costs of that incident.

Getting Caught: Big events, crowded studios, and noise complaints will be ways that you draw attention to your illegal alcohol serving. If you are known for having that party vibe in your space, you may want to slow down.

Liquor crack downs have happened in the art world (mainly at galleries) who serve without permits. Oftentimes in these situations, since the wine or drinks are often given away for free, the gallery owner (considered the server) is slapped with a criminal citation and summons if a minor is served.

Legalities: Different states have different laws and rules about permits  If you still have questions, the Department of Public Safety is where you want to look for links to the laws, forms for permits and other helpful information. For my MN artists the link is here.

If you are serving alcohol, you will need to determine who is responsible for serving alcohol, you, a venue or an insured venue. A professional bartender will need to serve alcohol who has formal alcohol awareness training and serving cannot be issued to anyone under 21.

Making a Decision to Serve:  Really observe if people are coming  and enjoying the studio experience or if they are mooching off free wine. If its fun and part of the open studio camaraderie, then be willing to suffer the consequences if the worst case scenario happened and you are caught.

If you want to do this right, ask yourself if you are willing to pay for the permits, and insurance, costs of a bartender, etc. to continue to legally serve.

 

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