FAQ: Serving Alcoholic Beverages at Events on University of Michigan Campuses

“The University of Michigan is committed to providing a safe and healthy learning environment for all its members. The University recognizes that the improper or excessive use of alcohol and other drugs may interfere with the University’s mission by negatively affecting the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. It is due to the harm caused by the excessive and illegal substance use that the University has a vested interest in establishing policies that address this issue.”

SPG 601.29 Alcohol and Drug Policy, p. 1; Issued November 14, 2011.


Which facilities on campus are licensed to serve alcoholic beverages?

The licensed facilities on campus are: Michigan League, Michigan Union, Pierpont Commons, Ross School of Business Executive Learning and the U-M Golf Course and Postma Family Clubhouse. This means that it is lawful to sell or serve alcoholic beverages with meals at events held at these locations where there is a charge to attend.

Can alcoholic beverages be served on unlicensed campus sites?

Generally no. However, the state of Michigan Liquor Control Commission allocates twelve (12) special liquor licenses for University-wide activities to U-M for its use in any one (1) calendar year. The allocation of twelve (12) such licenses is for the Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses, collectively; there are not additional licenses available for each of the three campuses. Requests for a special license must be submitted for approval to the Associate Vice President for Facilities and Operations (“AVPFO”). Because of the limited allocation of available licenses, the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel strongly recommends contacting the AVPFO’s event coordinator at fo-events@umich.edu before planning your event or suggesting through publicity that alcoholic beverages will be served.

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When is a special license not required for consumption on unlicensed premises?

Any serving of alcoholic beverages on U-M property outside of the currently licensed sites must conform to the sponsoring department’s policies on alcoholic beverage use at a departmental event and the requirements for the particular building where the alcoholic beverages will be provided. Prior to deciding to serve alcoholic beverages at an event at a U-M facility, the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel recommends contacting both the sponsoring department’s administrative office (e.g., dean’s office) and the particular building’s manager.

State law requires that the event be free of charge and the event be not open to the public (i.e., is by invitation only). In addition, if the event is to occur on U-M property, the AVPFO policies require that (a) no alcoholic beverage inventory be kept; (b) the event be monitored by a designated responsible individual; and (c) all servers be certified. See the complete list of guidelines.

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Can non-U-M organizations use an unlicensed facility for an event at which alcoholic beverages will be served?

Yes, but the group must comply with additional regulations. The group must provide the AVPFO with evidence of alcoholic beverages liability insurance in an amount determined by U-M’s Risk Management Services office and The Regents of the University of Michigan must be named as an additional insured. Also, the group may be required by law to obtain a special license. If so, a letter of approval from the chief of police or director of public safety and the AVPFO must accompany the licensee application to the Liquor Control Commission. The Office of the Vice President and General Counsel strongly recommends contacting the AVPFO’s event coordinator at fo-events@umich.edu before planning your event or suggesting through publicity that alcoholic beverages will be served.

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Can a university sponsor an outside group for a liquor license?

No. The twelve (12) special liquor licenses allocated by state law mandate that they can only be used by U-M and for U-M’s benefit.

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Is a special license necessary if there is a cash bar on unlicensed premises?

Yes. However, even if there is no cash bar, but the inventory is purchased with funds associated with the event (ticket, registration fee, donation, etc.), a special license is almost always required. The Office of the Vice President and General Counsel strongly recommends contact the AVPFO’s event coordinator at fo-events@umich.edu before planning your event or suggesting through publicity that alcoholic beverages will be served.

Who can serve alcoholic beverages at a U-M event on Campus?

Under AVPFO policies, U-M employees or students who have been certified by an alcohol server-training program may serve alcoholic beverages. If an outside caterer will provide the server(s), the caterer must provide certified servers. The policy places responsibility upon the event organizer for taking appropriate measures to ensure that all U-M policies related to alcoholic beverages are followed at the event.

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How do you become certified to serve alcoholic beverages?

Certification requires training. Some organizations that will provide adequate training include:

PLEASE NOTE: Some of the above noted programs are offered in other states. You must complete a program that covers Michigan requirements.

For additional resources or on-campus training for certification, please contact Michigan Dining by Emailing michigan-dining@umich.edu or calling 734-764-3000.

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Are alcoholic beverages permitted at outdoor student-sponsored events?

U-M policy does not permit alcoholic beverages at outdoor events. See policies for each campus: Ann Arbor; and Dearborn.

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Can individuals who host or serve at a U-M event be vulnerable to personal liability?

Yes. However, provided you follow all applicable procedures, U-M has insurance to cover claims made against you for any loss or damage resulting from your U-M-sponsored activities, except for any loss or damage resulting from any willful misconduct or illegal activities. For more details on procedures to follow in the event of some claim against you, please visit the Risk Management Services website.

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Are patrons allowed to bring their own alcoholic beverages onto licensed premises?

No. However, hotel guests (such as at the Michigan League) may bring in their own alcoholic beverages to the bedrooms or suites of a licensed hotel for consumption within these limited areas.

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If I am hosting an event for business related purposes at which alcoholic beverages will be served, what do I need to do to be reimbursed for the alcoholic beverages?

The alcoholic beverages expense must be separated from other expenses and covered by an appropriate non-sponsored, non-general fund-funding source. The Office of the Vice President and General Counsel recommends that you contact appropriate personnel within your school, college or administrative unit to obtain approval for the alcoholic beverages expense prior to detailed planning for your event and most certainly before purchasing any alcoholic beverages.

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If the event I plan to host will include undergraduate students, are there additional legal requirements or U-M policies that I must follow?

Although the legal requirements remain the same, special attention should be given to ensuring no person under twenty-one (21) years of age is served or consumes alcohol. Further, the Vice President of Student Affairs strongly discourages serving alcoholic beverages at events where undergraduate students are likely to be participating.

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