Be a Diligent Host at your Holiday Celebration

Women's hands with glasses of champagne.

For many Canadians, the upcoming festive season offers an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, with many of us planning to gather in person once again to celebrate the joys of the holidays. Traditionally, many of these occasions will involve serving and drinking alcoholic beverages. This is a good time to keep in mind that if you are hosting a party, whether it is taking place at your home or at an event venue, you may have a responsibility to your guests who consume alcohol. In this blog post, I provide some tips for keeping your guests safe once they leave your party.

Goal #1: Prevent Drinking and Driving

As a host of an event where alcohol will be served, you should keep your guests’ safety in mind. Given the nature of the holiday and everyone’s good mood, guests can (and often do) overindulge and become intoxicated. This might be even more of a factor this year, as people might be ‘out of practice’ after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns and online social events. A host’s concern is not just related to the intoxicated attendee(s), but to anyone who has consumed alcohol, regardless of how much. It doesn’t take much for a guest to be “over the limit”.

A host should use common sense when alcohol is provided at a party. Be sure to also serve non-alcoholic beverages – there are many websites that offer recipes for delicious and festive non-alcoholic cocktails. While serving coffee at the end of the evening will not sober people up, it is a nice option for the end of an event and gives the guests an opportunity to continue socializing without drinking more alcohol.

Whether alcohol is provided for free, the guests are paying for it, or the guests bring it themselves, the host should ensure that the guests do not leave the party intoxicated. If you are hosting a party where alcohol is being consumed, be diligent in monitoring the amount of alcohol being imbibed by your guests. If you are not serving the drinks yourself, be sure that your servers are monitoring guests’ intake.

If a person seems intoxicated, do not hesitate to refuse them further alcohol. Offer to call a cab to take them home, arrange a ride with a sober driver, or invite them to stay overnight.

A Host’s Liability

The Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear that the simple act of holding a party where people get drunk and then drive will not, without other factors, result in legal liability. But where an exchange of money is involved, or where a special relationship exists (for example, kids under 18 drinking at the party), or where the host does something to specifically create a dangerous situation (for example, continuing to serve alcohol to someone who is already drunk, knowing that the person intends to drive home), the Court may hold the host responsible for any injuries or accidents that follow. In any event, hosts should feel a moral obligation to ensure that their family, friends and guests make it home safely without causing injury to themselves or anyone else.

From your friends at Howie, Sacks & Henry, have a safe and happy holiday season. For more information about social host liability, feel free to contact Michael J. Henry at 416-361-0889 or by email at

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