Many businesses wish to offer food and beverage services for corporate events without the burden of a full-service restaurant available every day. In some circumstances, a catering establishment license is a preferable alternative category of a retail on-premises license. A restaurant serves food and beverage at all times while a catering establishment only does so during private parties. BYOB is permissible under a catering establishment license, although the licensee must still have a stock of alcohol available. If you don’t plan to sell food and beverage outside catered events, this option should be considered.
A business that is not primarily operating in the food and beverage space (that is, not a bar or restaurant) may apply for a catering establishment license to serve food and alcoholic beverages at private events if certain requirements are satisfied:
- The business has a portion of its premises that is “for hire” by the public for private events. This portion should be separated in some fashion from the main public areas of the business. The key is that access is limited to the private party attendees, not openly accessible to the general public. It is a good idea to charge a “room fee.”
- The private party invites and brings the attendees, not the catering establishment. The catering establishment cannot solicit attendees to an event in any fashion. The catering establishment cannot use the space for its own corporate parties; rather, it is intended to be “for hire” to the general public.
- The area for hire must accommodate at least 50 people. (Fewer people can attend any particular event. It is the occupancy of the space being used that is important.)
- There must be adequate facilities to prepare food that are in compliance with health department rules and regulations. The facilities for preparing food must be there, even if not actually used. It is permissible to have the food prepared off site and delivered ready to serve by a third party so long as the customer pays the catering establishment, not the third party, for the food and beverages.
Using your space for corporate parties can be a great revenue stream. Museums, sports facilities and other businesses have successfully added this new offering to customers. Wine and beer only permits are quite affordable and worth considering if you would like to monetize your underused space. Consulting with an experienced SLA attorney can help you select the best license to meet your business needs.