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Enjoying the Benefits and Managing the Risks of Bar Crawls

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Enjoying the Benefits and Managing the Risks of Bar Crawls

(Wikimedia Photo: Beer-on-tap by JMacPherson)

by Annie Stontz, Marketing Representative, and Avalon Thomas-Roebal, Marketing Representative/West Team Leader

When Illinois Casualty Company (ICC) began offering liquor liability coverage in 1950, our bread and butter became small town taverns sprinkled throughout Midwestern communities. One common event for these taverns is a bar crawl. These events are especially popular during spring and summer months and can be better controlled with just a few simple steps.

Bar crawls can bring quick business and introduce new clientele to an establishment, but they also increase the risk of a liquor liability loss. ICC is committed to educating our insureds on safe operational practices to keep these well-loved establishments running for years to come.

Before her time in Marketing, Annie Stontz owned and operated a bar in her Illinois hometown for eight years, and managed others for over twenty. Coupled with her expertise in liquor liability, Annie shares her valuable insight on hosting a safe and enjoyable bar crawl.

What should bars look for when allowing a bar crawl to stop at their premises?

CARD HARD! ID all patrons, and do not rely on wristbands provided by the crawl. It is your responsibility to ID at your establishment. Take extra notice of younger patrons who are attempting to have an older individual buy them drinks. You reserve the right to refuse service or even to ask those patrons to leave.

Occasionally, bar owners will be notified that their bar is on a crawl route. When this happens, you should find out the approximate number of attendees and timeframe patrons are expected. Staffing adequately, stocking up on popular items, and having glassware clean will free up time to focus on responsible serving practices when crawlers arrive.

Another trick I used was to keep lights off the lowest setting. By brightening up the place a bit, I had better views of the crowd.

If possible, move and/or cover pool tables. This will open up floor space and keep your equipment safe.

Bar crawl events can be a long day of boozy enjoyment. What should bars do to keep patrons participating safely?

Very rarely did I offer drink specials for these events. When I did receive notice of an event, I always made sure to have food of some sort. Nacho bars and deli trays can help slow down drinking and get food in patron’s systems. If your establishment offers food, it is a good opportunity to let the kitchen shine and run a food special.

I also kept water and iced tea out for people to pour themselves, saving me time at the bar and providing an easy access, non-alcoholic option.

My biggest advice is to engage with as many patrons as possible. This will help you notice who may be agitated, overserved, or needs extra eyes on them. Walk the floor and check for spills, broken bottles, or other issues you can fix quickly.

What about those times when you don’t know large groups are coming? What mistakes should be avoided when they come in all at once?

Try to avoid feeling rushed and thinking you don’t have time to card everyone that needs to be. It’s important to observe the crowd and notice anyone that may have already been overserved.

Be cognizant not to overpour and use plastic cups whenever possible. Do not allow all-you-can-drink wristbands or bottomless cup/keg specials.

ICC is a specialty food and beverage carrier. What makes us stand out as the carrier who knows this niche?

ICC offers free OnTAP alcohol server training to our insureds and a wide variety of in-person and online classes through our safety education partner, Katkin. These courses highlight responsible serving practices for bar owners, managers, bartenders, and even security personnel.

I know from running my own bar that crawls or bike nights would sometimes utilize extended areas outside of my establishment, like spilling over into an adjoining parking lot. ICC broadens the definition of “your premises” to provide liability coverage to these areas.

When it comes to these events, the only thing you can control is your service to patrons. You have no control over the amount of alcohol they consume on a party bus or at stops prior to coming in or after leaving your bar.

Utilizing and saving security camera footage during these events is imperative if a claim does occur. ICC strongly encourages the use of camera footage and provides premium relief to insureds who protect their business by doing so.

Editor’s Note: Illinois Casualty Company (ICC) is the exclusive preferred liquor liability insurance for the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. Qualifying Members can save up to 10% on their businessowners and liquor liability insurance. To find out more about our insurance programs and to locate an agent in your area, visit

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