Should we provide the alcohol for your upcoming event or should you provide the alcohol?

This is a question we get a lot, so we decided we would answer it right here so that it’s easy to reference.

After facilitating bar serves for over 1,000 events, we have discovered that if you are hosting a wedding reception, a house party, a corporate happy hour or any other private event, it is more advantageous for you to provide your own alcohol, as opposed to having it provided by us or another third party vendor (like a caterer).

Here are five reasons reasons why:

  • No TABC permit needed - If you (the client) provide alcohol for free to your guests, you will not need a special event permit. If Drink Slingers or a caterer (the vendor) was to provide alcohol on your behalf, or if we were to set up a cash bar, we would have to obtain a special event permit from TABC to effectively the sell alcohol on premise at that particular venue. In order to obtain this permit, the vendor would have to apply for it no less than 10 business days prior to the event and there is a cost associated with this application. Please keep in mind a permit to sell is not the same as a permit to serve and in all cases a TABC certified server is required to serve the alcohol whether it is free or not.
  • Overall costs - By cutting out the vendor middleman, when purchasing alcohol directly from a retail store the overall prices will be lower than they would be if purchased through us or a caterer. We have reviewed hundreds of invoices from local stores like Spec’s and Twin Liquors, and we have found that the average alcohol cost for a four hour event tends to range between $7-$15 per guest for beer & wine only events, and $12-$20 per guest for beer, wine, and liquor events. Events with more complex cocktails or longer service times tend to be on the higher end of that cost range. Please note that this is an approximation only, not a guarantee.
  • Wide range of selections - Retail stores have a large range of alcohol selections and prices, and the sales accountants can help you find special deals on these selections (which often change week to week) as well as brainstorm other ways to make your alcohol purchase fit your budget. Some sales agents even offer tastings. Caterers typically have only a few selections to choose from in their packages, so if you have a favorite beer, wine or liquor brand that they don’t offer, your price will increase. This is because they must sell any unused alcohol at future events so they stock only those brands they know they can re-sell.
  • You keep the leftovers - At the end of your event you get to keep any leftovers for a future party, to give as gifts to friends, or to stock your home bar. You also have the choice to return any unused (and untampered with) bottles of liquor and wine and any unopened cases of beer, minus a 10% restocking fee. Be sure to confirm this option with the store you plan to purchase from before you place your order. However, if you order the alcohol through a vendor, by TABC law any leftovers become their property.
  • Delivery - With the exception of Sundays, most retail stores also offer delivery services so you don’t have to worry about transporting it to the venue. Keep in mind the stores can only deliver within the same county, so if you call a Spec’s in Travis county but are hosting an event in Hays or Williamson county, they would have to transfer you to a sales rep at a store in the venue’s corresponding county.

However, it may make sense for us to provide the alcohol if:

  • You or your organization have a higher budget and your event is longer than four hours
  • You or your organization are from out of town and managing leftover product would pose an issue
  • Your event is a festival (or akin to it) and you wish to do a cash bar

And on the Subject of Cash Bars:

You may request a cash bar because you don’t want to pay for your guest’s alcohol. However it is important to understand that you would still have to cover the upfront costs of a cash bar, such as staffing, permitting, bar set up, admin fees, etc. Or, there will be a cash bar minimum to meet, so that the vendor’s costs are covered and a reasonable profit is made on alcohol sales. In the case of us providing a cash bar for a small event, we would typically keep all sales profits from the drinks. For larger, festival style events, we would negotiate a net profit split.

Festivals with cash bars will have to meet other TABC and Health Department requirements. These may include, but are not limited to flooring, fencing, tents, security, and permission from the Austin Police and/or fire departments.

Please note if alcohol is being donated by a sponsor, in no instance can that alcohol be sold, it must be handed out for free. This is TABC law - neither you or your organization can benefit from the sale of donated alcohol. For more information on this, click here.

We hope this helps illuminate the differences between us providing the alcohol and you providing the alcohol at your next event!

Still have questions? Email us and we will get back to you shortly.