You are invited to an alcohol-free affair.
June 5, 2008 7:37 AM   Subscribe

How necessary is it to serve alcoholic beverages at an evening ribbon-cutting ceremony?

I work for a nonprofit, and we are celebrating the opening of a new location next month. We have typically held lunchtime ribbon-cutting events, but this time we are restricted to either a breakfast or after-hours event.

In discussing the options with my committee, the consensus is that we would get the most traffic (we are on a major thoroughfare) by having it in the evening. However, my contact at the chamber is insisting that we serve alcohol (she says it's an "unspoken expectation")... and that's something my bosses absolutely will not allow.

So, my questions are: 1. Are we committing some unforgivable social faux pas if we have an evening event without alcohol? 2. Considering that alcohol is not an option, would we be better off doing a morning event? There will be food either way.

If it's important, we are in Houston, and this location is in an affluent part of town (Memorial, for those who are familiar) with a lot of new business development.
posted by Ruby Doomsday to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think champagne is expected at such celebrations. Perhaps sparking grape juice would be an acceptable compromise.
posted by gjc at 7:46 AM on June 5, 2008

Sounds like your contact at the Chamber has a drinking problem. Houston is in the Bible belt, alcohol is not a given at any event there, unless its a political fundraiser, any meeting involving Episcopalians, or a black-tie affair. So if your event falls into any of these categories, get a wet bar. Otherwise, feel free to skip it.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:47 AM on June 5, 2008

I would absolutely expect alcoholic beverages at almost any charity event. Exceptions would be for charities that work with children (depending on the hoity-toity level of the event), and charities that focus on substance abuse problems.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:51 AM on June 5, 2008

It's reasonable to expect that evening social events would have alcohol. However, in terms of the event-planning world, you may be able to get the chamber to agree that a dessert reception would be "normal" sans alcohol.

Why would your bosses not allow it? Cost, an objection to alcohol, other? Is your organization one for which the public would not reasonable expect alcohol (e.g. religious.)
posted by desuetude at 7:51 AM on June 5, 2008

According to my sister (the major gifts development officer for huge charity): "If your contact at the partnering organization says that guests will notice and react unfavorably to the absence of the usual bar, do everything you can to either provide a bar or distract from the absence of the bar. Fake-alcoholic beverages will only make the absence more obvious. Having a breakfast event is a good compromise because people don't notice the lack of booze on work-day breakfast events. You have to calculate whether the ill-will generated by your appearing cheap or disapproving by failing to provide even a celebratory toast at an evening event will be more than the disinterest in a breakfast event, and take the course that causes the least damage." Me, I'd go with the morning event.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:56 AM on June 5, 2008

Yeah, crush-onastick said it better.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:09 AM on June 5, 2008

Houston is in the Bible belt, alcohol is not a given at any event there

OMGLOLROTFL!!! Wait, you were being serious? Have you ever lived here?

You're certainly not required to serve booze. But don't expect a lot of people to show up after work if you don't. And expect those who do to probably take off early to hit a happy hour somewhere. That could be your out, actually. Have a quick, offical dry ribbon cutting with an unoffical gathering for drinks somewhere afterwards.

Some office buildings don't allow their tenants to serve alcohol, so that could also be your excuse if you don't wholly own the building being opened.

But, yeah, breakfast sounds like a better idea.
posted by Cyrano at 8:43 AM on June 5, 2008

I'm with Cyrano, Pollomacho has either not attended many events in Houston, or I have no idea which ones he's attended. Houston is a hard-drinkin' town.

Go with the breakfast, otherwise everyone's going to be wondering where the drinks are.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:03 AM on June 5, 2008

I agree that people in Houston drink, drink, drink. If you can't serve alcohol at all, I'd go with the breakfast event -- unless, of course, your non-profit is some sort of rehab/recovery outfit.
posted by Robert Angelo at 9:07 AM on June 5, 2008

If you do not serve drinks at any celebratory event, people will question where the booze is at. I vote for the continental breakfast. Just hope they are not expecting mimosas.
posted by thetenthstory at 10:33 AM on June 5, 2008

Hey, whoa now, I'm not arguing that people do or do not drink in Houston. What I'm saying is that it is not required unless it is some sort of more formal event.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:38 AM on June 5, 2008

What about serving something posh and non-alcoholic? You could try an espresso cart or a fresh squeezed juice/smoothie bar. I think if you're serving something that would normally cost people ~$5 each, the absence of booze would not be an issue.
posted by rhinny at 12:48 PM on June 5, 2008

If I were you, I'd strive to provide food that's just as unhealthy as unlimited vodka martinis.

Cupcakes! Doughnuts! Fudge! Bacon-wrapped bacon balls with bacon bits!

Anybody who complains about not being able to get a glass of box-wine when offered Willy Wonka's Own Personal Cake Spread With Extra Sprinkles is, I think, not a person whose patronage you need to seek.
posted by dansdata at 12:50 PM on June 5, 2008

Drinks for everyone! Otherwise, have it in the morning. People will expect alcohol at an evening event, absolutly.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 3:32 PM on June 6, 2008

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