The terms under which a “bottle club” can be established are determined by the Board. You can grant the group the right to use the bar and bar storage, as you wish. No other resident has the right to get “free” drinks merely because the alcohol is stored on Association property, unless that is one of the agreed terms. The conditions under which other residents can make use of alcohol bought and stored by club members need to be carefully considered. Do you limit club hours to a certain time and day? Should you require that only club members can drink, and that users must contribute to the club to join? At what point would temporary membership, if allowed, verge into a commercial enterprise? Whether or not you grant permission for a club, you still need to establish clear guidelines if you intend to permit drinking in the clubhouse. The potential for liability is obvious; if your insurance rates increase, you may decide that the cost outweighs the benefit.
Spolzino Smith Buss & Jacobs LLP
733 Yonkers Ave
Yonkers, NY 10704-2635
(212) 688-2400 ext 4102
I am not a fan of alcohol being served at all in a clubhouse situation. There are too many opportunities for liability. Understanding, however, that a bar was installed for the purpose of serving alcohol, there are times when the Unit Owners will expect that the bar will be open and used, and the Board may have to accommodate some of their expectations.
If the Association establishes a club or sanctions an event, it is responsible for it. The greatest fear is dram shop liability – serving a person who is already intoxicated to the point at which that person is no longer capable of saying he/she has had enough. If that person gets hurt, either by reason of having driven to the clubhouse and taking his chances by driving home, or by tripping on the stairs, etc., that person will sue for personal injury damages, as will any other person who is injured.
1. It is much better if the person serves himself/herself.
2. It is much better if there is not a bartender hired by the Association or a Club.
3. I would seriously consider consulting with your insurance agent on this subject. They are the most familiar with the liability that has been found, and can provide guidance as to rules that should apply.
4. If you do use a bartender, that bartender should be trained and certified. He/she should be expected to know about the dram shop laws, and should not serve people who are obviously intoxicated.
I am familiar with an Association that has a
wine club. The members store their wines in locked individual cabinets and they have the key. They go and get their own wine, and they serve themselves. So far, everyone has behaved themselves. I am aware of no incidents.
Finally, the expression, “there is no such thing as a free lunch” goes for the consumption of alcohol too. Under your scenario, the Association is not supplying alcohol – the individual Unit Owners are. If that is the case and you are not supplying your own alcohol, you don’t get to drink the alcohol of others. The governing documents very likely allow the Board to devote common element space to the exclusive use of certain Unit Owners as “reserved”.
Griffin Alexander, P.C.
415 Route 10 Ste 6-8
Randolph, NJ 07869-2100
I am unable to provide a comprehensive response without review the governing documents and the use restrictions pertaining to the common area clubhouse.
My main concern would be the liability of the Association for allowing the serving of alcohol on Association premises. If the Association were to allow such an arrangement, I would be concerned about dram shop liability. What if a resident got over served and then sustained an injury after leaving the association-sanctioned club bar? Who is liable?
The Association should require a suitably trained bartender and liability insurance (i.e. dram shop coverage) for anyone operating the bar within the Association. The Association should install locking cabinets with key access for the appropriate members. Otherwise, the alcohol will be available to anyone who has access to the clubhouse, which could include minors.
The Association should also consider requiring indemnification agreements from the bar operators/club members.
Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC
8050 West 78th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55439
The Board has the right to set rules and establish parameters at their discretion. From a Management standpoint, my concern would be that the Board first and foremost weigh the benefit of this added “amenity” versus the increased liability of having it. For example, is the clubhouse within walking distance to all participating homeowners and would the bar area be locked when not open for use? The specific guidelines under which this club (unofficial or not) operates would be up to the Board to decide what is fair and equitable for the community. I would be less focused on whether or not to provide free drinks to entitled residents and more concerned about setting up proper parameters around this alcohol policy that would keep the Association’s risk exposure to a minimum. Lastly, I would recommend that any proposed policy be reviewed by the Association’s Attorney before implemented to ensure any and all legal language protecting the Association be added in an effort to limit liability.
Scalzo Property Management, Inc.
2 Stony Hill
Bethel, CT 06801