Alcohol and Events
Student Organization Events Involving Alcoholic Beverages
Risk management for the social events of student organizations is very important, and we recognize that those social events may sometimes involve alcoholic beverages. Section II of the Texas A&M University Alcohol Rules addresses the presence, sale or distribution, and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages at events sponsored by recognized student organizations. This section's rules are also listed in the document linked at the bottom of this page. Ensuring you are compliant with these rules and guidelines will protect your organization's liability and reputation, and most importantly, will help you host a safe event for all of your participants and constituents. Sub-sections A, C, and E cover three areas that are most often misunderstood: policies regarding open vs. closed events, co-sponsorship, and bring-your-own-beverage (BYOB) operations. Please review the information below for more clarification about these areas.
If you are planning an event in which alcohol will be given away, sold, or otherwise provided or available to participants, please submit an Event Planning Form to the Department of Student Activities. Please also submit any contract(s) you may have with a bar/tavern or any other alcohol distributor for your event. Finally, if you are unsure whether or not your social event qualifies as an "organizational event," ask yourselves the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the event? Does it relate to my student organization?
- Who will attend the event, and why?
- What resources are being used for the event? Is our organization providing any funding, marketing, etc. for the event?
- How is the event being publicized or communicated, both to the general public or campus community and to my organization's members?
- Would a reasonable person associate this event with my organization? Would the media associate the event with my organization?
If you have any reservations about these questions or have even a slight feeling that the event might qualify as an organizational event, it probably does. Err on the side of caution and plan for a safe event in compliance with the guidelines set forth for student organizations!
Open vs. Closed Events
Student organizations are not permitted to host "open events" involving alcoholic beverages. Student organizations and their individual leaders are responsible for the safety and success of their events and the participants who attend. Numerous risks are more likely to be realized when event participants have consumed alcohol, including fights, sexual assaults, car accidents, and property damages. Therefore, it is imperative to restrict your events to constituents who will share your vested interest in the preservation of the organization and who understand the guidelines set forth for them by your group. As a student organization leader, you hold responsibility for all of the attendees at your event, so it would be unwise to host an event involving alcohol that is open to anyone in the general public.
The best way to host a "closed event" is to have a pre-established guest list. There many benefits to having a guest list, including having an accurate count beforehand of the number of people planning to attend, having a record of attendees in case of unfortunate incidents or accidents that happen during or after your event, and ensuring your compliance with the university's alcohol rules by making your event "closed." Guest lists help you plan ahead of time, and they help ensure the responsibility and accountability of all participants for their individual behavior.
It is not enough to just have a guest list beforehand; you must also enforce the list during your event. Please note that a "sign-in" list is NOT a true guest list, because individuals can sign in under anyone's name and it gives an impression that the event is indeed open to the general public. You must also ensure that your location or facility is aware that you have a strict guest list, because if the location is letting regular customers into your event, it has become an open event. (If your organization cannot afford the cost to rent the facility for your members' and guests' exclusive use, ask if the venue will allow you to rent out a specific closed room or portion of the facility.) Finally, you may find that it is challenging for your members to turn away friends, alumni, etc. who are not on the pre-established guest list. Therefore, hiring a security officer is the best way to monitor a guest list. We also suggest using visible signs for your participants, such as a hand stamp designating guests and/or a wristband for guests of legal drinking age.
If you are hosting an event in which alcohol is given away, sold, or otherwise provided to participants, ascertain whether or not your event is "open" or "closed" by asking yourselves the following questions:
- Are members of the organization issuing an unlimited number of invitations to the general public or campus community?
- Are you not using an invitation/guest list, and/or will you not have a guest list present at the entrance or check-in to your event?
- Will the venue also be open to the general public during your event?
- If you are selling tickets, (a) Are there an unlimited number being sold?, (b) Are venues other than your organization's members selling tickets, such as the facility itself?, (c) Are you not collecting names, addresses, or other identifiable information for the individuals purchasing tickets?, and (d) Will attendees presenting tickets not be checked against a guest list prior to entry?
- Is the event being advertised to the general public, or is there an appearance that the event is open to the general public?
If you answer "yes" to any of the above questions, your event may be considered an open event and is likely in violation of the Student Rules.
Student organizations are not permitted to advertise alcohol or to co-sponsor events with a bar/tavern or other alcohol distributor. These rules are in place to prevent the perception that your student organization is encouraging people (specifically students) to consume alcohol. While the objectives and values of student organizations vary greatly, all student organizations are affiliated with Texas A&M University, an entity that does not condone alcohol consumption (especially by under-age individuals) as a core value. Because of the university's vested interest in the intellectual, physical and psychological well-being of the campus community, it is important that the institution and its recognized student organizations take steps to curtail the abusive or illegal use of alcoholic beverages.
If you are hosting an event at a venue or location owned by a vendor of alcoholic beverages, distributor, organization, or tavern (establishment generating more than half of its annual gross sales from alcohol), ascertain whether or not your event is "co-sponsored" by asking yourselves the following questions:
- Is there an agreement (written or verbal) with the venue or distributor regarding the event, such as (a) a discounted rental fee for the venue in exchange for goods or services provided by the student organization (advertisement, percentage of ticket sales, etc.), (b) an advertisement of the venue or vendor in any capacity other than at the location for the event, (c) a contribution to a charity or the student organization from sales of food, beverage, etc. at the event, or other such agreements?
- Is the venue or distributor advertising the event as their own in any capacity, or as an event they are co-sponsoring with the student organization or others?
- Is the venue or distributor paying for any aspect of the event?
- Is there a perception (of the invited guests or in general) that the venue or distributor is co-sponsoring the event?
If you answer "yes" to any of the above questions, your event may be considered a co-sponsored event and is likely in violation of the Student Rules.
Bring-Your-Own-Beverage (BYOB) Operations
The Texas A&M University Alcohol Rules state that student organization events must be in compliance with BYOB or Third Party Vendor guidelines. If you are hosting an event including a beverage service or at which alcohol will be present, ascertain whether or not your event is in compliance with BYOB guidelines by asking yourselves the following questions:
- Will guests of age 21 or older only be allowed to bring a limited quantity of alcohol for use by themselves (i.e. a limit of beverages per person)?
- Will guests of age 21 or older be limited to a specific type of alcoholic beverage (e.g. no hard liquor or unknown mixtures, no glass bottles, etc.)?
- Will guests be provided a ticket for each single container of alcoholic beverage they bring to the event?
- Will guests of age 21 or older be issues wristbands identifying themselves as of legal age to consume alcohol?
- Will alcoholic beverages brought by guests be maintained in a secure environment with a designated server of age 21 or older?
- Will alcoholic beverages be redistributed only to guests who have proper identification and a ticket for the beverage?
- Will alcohol not be accessible to guests who are under the age of 21 years?
- Will FREE non-alcoholic beverages and non-salty goods be available to all guests?
If you answer "yes" to all of the above questions, your event may be considered a BYOB event and is likely in compliance with the Student Rules.
Third Party Vendor Guidelines
The Texas A&M University Alcohol Rules state that student organization events involving alcohol must be in compliance with BYOB or Third Party Vendor guidelines. The Third Party Vendor Checklist, found below, was developed in an effort to assist student organizations in the planning of an event involving alcohol that is safe and within the guidelines of the Texas A&M Student Rules. Please use this checklist if you are hosting an event at which alcohol will be present and you will either be:
- Paying for the services of a business/person licensed to sell and dispense alcohol at events
- AND/OR, renting out an establishment (i.e. bar or tavern) that is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages