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Introduction to Alcohol Permit Types for Fundraising Events

Welcome to our introduction on navigating the world of alcohol at events in Washington State. Whether you’re organizing a public fundraiser, a private soirée, or just curious about the ins and outs of serving alcohol, we’ve got you covered. Let’s break down the essentials in a friendly and easy-to-understand manner. 

Alcohol plays a significant role in many events, and it’s essential to understand the regulations set by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here are some key points to kick things off: 

There Are Varying Types of Licenses/Permits 

The LCB accounts for different classes of licenses: 

Banquet Permit: This permit is ideal for private gatherings where no money changes hands for alcohol. You can also offer drink tickets as part of a package deal. 

Special Occasion License (SOL): If your event is public or private but involves selling alcohol, an SOL is the way to go. Keep in mind that alcohol cannot be sold for less than its cost. Nonprofits can benefit from this license, but only if they’re registered as 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6) organizations. 

Permit to Raffle Alcohol: If you plan to raffle alcohol at a private event, you’ll need this permit, which is in addition to a Banquet Permit or Special Occasion License. The alcohol must be purchased at retail or donated by a community member. 

It is important to note that even if your event is private, if you plan to charge for alcohol, it falls under the same regulations as public events. You’ll need a Special Occasion License to sell alcohol. 

Determining the Type of Event Will Determine the Type of License 

Public Events 

Most nonprofit events fall under the category of public events. These can range from lively fundraising auctions to spirited biergartens at a community street fair. Your event becomes public when it’s openly advertised through email, social media, printed invitations, or your website. If your event is public and you intend to serve alcohol, you must have a liquor license in place. Who supplies the alcohol dictates who needs the license. 

Private Events 

Private events are invite-only affairs that aren’t publicly advertised. Think elegant weddings or exclusive donor receptions. In these instances, Private events typically need Banquet Permits. You, as a nonprofit, aren’t selling alcohol but are providing it for free. For such occasions, you’ll need a Banquet Permit. 

Alcohol given away for free under a banquet permit must be purchased at full retail price. No wholesale or donated alcohol is allowed. Wine or alcohol auctions are also off the table. When using a banquet permit, it’s important to note that no money can exchange hands at the event. 

Whose License Covers Your Public Event? 

Depending on the venue, it may not be necessary to separately obtain a license. In short, it’s one license at a time. You can’t stack licenses for liquor service; it’s one license per event. 

If your event is public (see above), there are two options for alcohol service: 

  • Use the License of Your Venue or Caterer: This is an option if your event is at a Hotel or restaurant event venue staff; A caterer with a liquor license is involved. In this scenario, they handle everything related to alcohol service at your event. No auctions of alcohol are allowed under this license. 
  • Or, if you are not collaborating with hotels or caterers, you may apply for a Special Occasion License. It is important to note that if you are holding an event at a winery or distillery, additional licensing may still be necessary. Typically, wineries and distilleries can pour but not sell at events with a Special Occasion License; breweries can pour only at tasting or judging events. 

In conclusion, understanding the intricacies of serving alcohol at events in Washington State is vital for a seamless and legal operation. This blog is only an introduction to the regulations and rules surround liquor at fundraisers. This article, or contacting Apex, does not in any way form an attorney-client relationship. Speak to a licensed attorney if you need help or advice in how to obtain permits for alcohol. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Coleman Scroggins at Check out this LCB Guide, and this handy video from the Nonprofit Association of Washington for more information. If you want to see more about fundraising requirements in Washington State, check out this blog, A Guide to Charitable Solicitations in Washington State.  Cheers to successful and enjoyable gatherings! 🍻 

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