Boozin' and Gamblin' in an unlicensed venue.
December 7, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

How can I set up a party with boozin', gamblin', and charity fundraisin' in a privately owned commercial space without bringing the wrath of the state of Illinois down upon us all?

Private member organization is throwing annual cocktail party. This is usually held at a rented restaurant location, but this year we'd like to do it in an historic building owned by one of the members. The building is unoccupied, but it is a commercial space, if that makes a difference.

We'd like to do a casino night, with possibility of fundraising for a good cause. We always charge a fee to attend events to cover cost, so it's not simply a private party.

We're hoping to have some food, a bar, and we'll bring in a licensed games company for the casino bit (fun money, not real stakes), but what other permits/licensing might we need, in addition to one for charity fundraising?

We had planned to purchase the food and alcohol and just hire servers in order to keep costs down, but do we need to be licensed for this since people will be paying for entry?

The absolute last thing we want is to throw a great party people are paying to attend and have the cops shut us down for breaking the law.

Thanks in advance!
posted by OompaLoompa to Law & Government (7 answers total)
You're going to have to ask a local attorney about this. And by local, I mean local, as your municipality is likely to have ordinances on the book about this sort of thing.

Look for someone who does land use stuff.
posted by valkyryn at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2011

Agreed, you need to work with a lawyer. There is regulation of casino night fundraising in Illinois as in most other states. There's alcohol licensing to think about too though that is easier to work around - often you can work with the caterer you hire to serve to use their license, but I don't live in your state and can't be sure how it works there. You may not be able to just purchase the booze, though. Check on all of this.
posted by Miko at 12:22 PM on December 7, 2011

Before you bother with an attorney, call the casino company and the caterer you're planning/hoping to use. They're almost certainly well versed in this stuff, and able to help guide you through the process or tell you that what you want is illegal. You may want to cross-check some of those answers for accuracy, but it isn't normally necessary to get a lawyer involved to throw a party, even for money.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:43 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Before you bother with an attorney, call the casino company and the caterer you're planning/hoping to use.

Not a terrible idea. Even better, ask the caterer or whoever which attorney they use. You're likely to need a permit for this sort of thing, and providing alcohol for the general public is 1) something municipalities tax the crap out of and 2) an activity which can subject the homeowner to liability for which their homeowners policy may not provide coverage.
posted by valkyryn at 12:51 PM on December 7, 2011

Thanks, all. We were trying to avoid the cost of a caterer and limit it to servers, but this is way outside our knowledge and the realm of reasonable liability, so it sounds like we'll have to use one, which frankly suits me just fine.
posted by OompaLoompa at 1:13 PM on December 7, 2011

IANAL, just a frequent host/planner. I realize these rules will be different in IL, but just as an example of what will have to happen for a similar event in Texas:

Insurance: If the venue doesn't already have its own insurance, someone will have to hold a special-event policy. My caterer usually carries a $1 million policy. I have only had to purchase one of these on my own one or two times, and my insurance agent just got me a one-off rider.

Gambling: If the public can enter and if there is money being charged at the door, then there cannot be any real money wagered on the table games. Guests may be given a set of chips when they arrive, and chips can be exchanged for raffle tickets or prizes later, but no actual money can be exchanged anywhere. The gaming company can always confirm the regs for me. Often they will explain right on their website what we can and can't do.

Alcohol: There are state regulations on service, especially around liability. If I have a party in a private space (not a hotel or restaurant), and I don't use bartenders who are TABC-certified, I as the host take all the liability for what a drunken guest does to himself or others at my event, or what he goes off and does when he leaves. Even if I have to hire bartenders from local bars to moonlight on their off-nights, I always hire TABC-certified (In TX, the certification attaches to the person, not the business). I do this even if the event is not open to the public or has a cover charge. It's just not worth the liability risk, IMO.

There are also some rules around how and whether I can sell tickets to the public for an event (for example, a benefit concert or a fight night) where liquor is being sold by the glass versus an open bar (which it sounds like you are planning).

But... my caterer can always advise me on this. Often they will be able to provide certified/licensed servers as part of my food and beverage package.

Food service: I always ask the caterer. A reputable one with a good reference list (not someone selling muffins out of the trunk of a car) can help me understand all the regs, rules, guidelines, everything.
posted by pineapple at 1:17 PM on December 7, 2011

I grew up in Illinois and remember all the Vegas nights that local churches would host. It might be worth your while to contact a local hint: Catholic church and see if they have any tips or people they can point you to.
posted by jabes at 2:18 PM on December 7, 2011

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