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Notes from the April, 2008 OLCC Event

Special Thanks to Dan McNeal and Kat Hand from OLCC.

The gist:

  • You can't sell alcohol without a license.
  • You CAN give away alcohol without a license.
  • You can't request a donation for alcohol without a license.
  • You can't require someone to buy something in order to get their free alcohol without a license.

Licensing Guidelines

The state issues several kinds of sales licenses, which are summed up on this page (.pdf), provided to us by the OLCC.


That being said, it doesn't always have to mean a $50/day state fee plus a $35/day city fee. Check on the handout for other options, and feel free to call the OLCC for advice in keeping your event in compliance.

Here are the OLCC Guidelines for Nonprofit Organizations and Special Events with Alcohol
This includes examples of what situations require licenses, and how to go about obtaining them.

Other Options

The Bishop's Model:
As many of you may know, Bishop's barbershops and salons give away alcohol to their customers. The secret to that? They also are required to give away beer to non-customers. In other words, your company may give away beer and wine at your event, as long as you give it away to anyone (of legal age, non-intoxicated of course) who walks in and requests it. If your lobby is before the point where tickets are taken, and you will give a glass of wine or a beer to someone who has not bought a ticket, you are in the clear. This is the same way galleries are able to serve wine at openings.
The key is to NOT put up a sign that says "requested donation", or even a tip jar, near where the alcohol is being served. Any implication that a person should pay for the drink puts you out of compliance.

The Social Gathering:
Events such as opening night parties, as long as they are not limited to those who attended the show (again, a pay-for-play situation) are considered social gatherings, and are treated the same as having a party at your house.
The key here is to make it clear that it is a private event which did not require attendance at the show. Consider asking a board member or other outside person to "host" (even if it is at the theatre), in order to separate the event (free) from the show (requires payment for admission.)

Rent Your Lobby Space:
Consider partnering with a local winery. For $10 a day, wineries may sell their products off-site. This makes them a great potential partner for theatres with busy lobbies. You may not split income with them, but you may be able to work out that they rent space in your lobby to set up sales of their product.

And the big one:

Contact your legislator to change the law, lowering the fees for NFP performing arts groups.

Dan pointed out that there are nooks and crannies all over the law for special groups. He encouraged us to get support from a legislator or three and write an exception into the law. Before January 1st, 2008, the fees were based on the number of hours alcohol was sold, and came to $25 per weekend for most theatre companies. Now that same weekend costs $150 for the state license and $105 for the city license. With the help of our elected representatives we could bring the figure back down to something more folks could afford.