The author, Jessica Ristimaki, is an Account Manager at Gougeon Insurance Brokers.


It’s a common misconception that simply because an office party is taking place off-site that the business doesn’t carry any liability associated with the event. This is not always the case.

When an event is sanctioned by the business, they carry a level of responsibility for the attendees and the space that is being rented. It’s important to know if your insurance policy will provide coverage for events such as this.

Give your broker a call if you’re unsure. If your policy doesn’t carry coverage for a special event then a short-term policy might be a solution.


A Commercial General Liability policy may exclude any coverage for liquor liability or any time when liquor is served. In order to sell alcohol you need a liquor permit/license from Alcohol Gaming Commission Ontario. In some cases, you may also require a permit/license even if the alcohol at your event is free.

Liquor liability can fall on several parties: servers, premises owners, employers, sponsors.

If you are the owner of an establishment that provides alcohol to customers you carry a responsibility to protect persons at your location from harm; this includes educating and properly training your staff who will interact with your customers.

There are measures that can be taken to help mitigate risk:

  • Train servers to identify an intoxicated person (Smart Serve Training).
  • Train servers how to advise a customer they are cut off from bar service – include Low Risk Practice sessions where servers can practice with each other how to handle situations that may arise.
  • Inform guests not to drink and drive.
  • Encouraging and arranging taxi transportation for customers.
  • Encourage designated driver programs and include a contact number for your guests to have quick access to.

Remember, a liquor liability permit is not insurance.

Liquor liability coverage can be added onto policies or stand-alone Event/Wedding policies can be purchased from PAL and other insurers.

A business that is renting a space for a party still carries a liquor liability exposure. At an employer sanctioned event the employer can carry some of the risk associated with the consumption of alcohol.

You can read about examples online (like the time an employee became drunk at an office party, drove home and got in to an accident and sued the employer for allowing them to drive home - settlement: $300,000). Essentially, a host of an event where liquor is served can carry liability with respect to the event. In this case, a Host Liquor Liability policy could fill the coverage gap.

Holiday Party Checklist

Before you pop the top on the champagne make sure to review our Holiday Party Checklist found in our resources section.

  • Go through each item and determine whether or not you have addressed it.
  • Create a plan leading up to your party and communicate with your employees about conduct, drinking responsibly, and to never drink and drive.

The checklist is not an exhaustive list but a guide to help you think through some of the risks associated with this time of year and special events.

We wish you safe and happy holidays!

We are here to help you understand and simplify the risks affecting your business. Connect with us to learn more: 1.800.461.1106 or

Topics: commercial general liability, risk management, general liability insurance, holiday party checklist, holiday party, liquor liability

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The snow is falling, the temperature is dropping, there’s a seasonal bite in the air. While the office holiday party is a great time to relax and enjoy the company of co-workers, there are still risks that must be addressed before the party begins.

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