Booze Clues

When you envision a successful social event, you picture guests mingling, happily making connections, snacking on hors d’oeuvres and often enjoying an alcoholic beverage of choice. However, before the wine can be poured or the champagne popped, there are a few questions the organization should ask before serving alcohol at charitable events.

Do you need a license or is a caterer allowed to serve? Is it okay to auction alcoholic beverages at the event? What are the various types of licenses needed?

These questions might seem daunting at first, but the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits can help you solve these “Booze Clues” before your next big charity event.

Do I Need a License?
New laws in Oklahoma have allowed nonprofits to serve certain alcohol at charitable events, but you need to know if your organization should obtain a license to serve these spirits. There are a few things to notice before applying for any type of license.

Will the event be…

  • Held at a location not at a restaurant, bar or country club, that does not have a liquor license?
  • Do you plan to buy some or all the liquor that will be served at a retail store?
  • Will the liquor be donated?
  • Is the price of the spirits included in the ticket price? Or is there a cash bar?
  • Will you be auctioning alcohol?

If the answer was yes to any of these questions, you will need to obtain a liquor license, whether it be the Charitable Alcoholic Beverage Event License (CAB) or the Charitable Alcoholic Beverage Auction License (CAU). The ABLE commission distinguishes between the two, and if you plan on both consuming and auctioning, you will need both licenses.

But Why?
If you have the event at a location like a restaurant or a casino, it has its own liquor license. But if you as the nonprofit organization is providing your own liquor, you will need a license—even if the location has a liquor license or the caterer is planning to pour the alcohol. Think of it like a restaurant wanting to serve their own liquor. The alcohol is yours, and the caterer’s license only covers private parties, not charity events.

Kinds of Licenses:

  • Charitable Alcoholic Beverage Event License (CAB)
    • $55 license fee per event
    • Applied up to eight times a year
    • Allows you to serve alcohol during the event that was either purchased at a retail store or donated
    • Allows use of a licensed caterer
  • Charitable Alcoholic Beverage Auction License (CAU)
    • Licenses need to be obtained if alcohol will be auctioned at the event
    • $1 license fee per event and each event can last up to two consecutive days
    • Can be applied for up to four times a year
    • No more than 50 gallons may be auctioned
    • Auction items must be in the original, sealed bottles

What about a Cash Bar?
You cannot sell your own alcohol at a charitable event as a nonprofit. Cost of the alcohol should be included in the ticket price. The caterer may have a cash bar and donate their earnings at the end of the night, but the money they make selling the drinks is their own.

Is an “invitation only” event a private party?
It is only a private party if the guests have a pre-established relationship, and are the only ones invited to the event by the organization. If the event is advertised to the public and anyone can purchase a ticket, it’s not a private party.

As you plan the perfect event, be sure to cover your bases to keep the drinks flowing along with the happy conversation. The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits is here to help you solve these Booze Clues and navigate your next charitable event.

Download the Booze Clues guide here!

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Marnie Taylor