Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Dec 24, 2013 03:36 PM

How to word invitation- not paying for drinks

I am hosting a Chinese New Year Dinner Party at a favorite restaurant. I plan to pay for dinner for everyone invited, but I'd like guests to foot their own drink bill. What is the most tactful way to communicate this in the invitation?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: Hobbert

      So, if there isn't one, I guess that means that people with religious or personal objections to alcohol are not allowed to entertain, in your view of the world? (or worse yet, have to foot the bill for something they can't or won't partake of themselves?) Seriously, when did drinking become a required part of hospitality? Are we all *that* dependent on alcohol?

      If it were my party and I didn't want to host alcohol, I'd just not provide it at all, and I would instruct the restaurant that I am not purchasing alcohol under any circumstances. I'd offer sodas, some nice tea, and water, and pick a place with a bar and those who wanted it would be free to go into the bar and order (and pay for at time of ordering) a drink or glass of wine. The restaurant would be clearly instructed (in writing if I thought it was necessary) that those instructions would be given to any who ordered a drink or wine. I see no reason to put it in the invitation, as it is an invitation to dinner, not invitation to drinks and dinner. I see no reason why my guests should assume I am providing alcohol. If I was inviting someone I knew expected alcohol, I might send them a private email 'warning' them or suggesting they might want to bring a bottle (and expect to pay corkage).

      Edited to add: To be clear, I don't object to the wording 'cash bar' or 'cash bar only' on an invitation if the OP believes that alcohol is expected. However, I do object to the idea that it is needed, and to the idea that one cannot be hospitable unless one offers alcohol, and that thus there is no way to avoid paying for alcohol while being a good host. For the OP: I think it is more important to make your intentions clear to the restaurant than to your guests: if someone does order wine, beer or a drink and you haven't specified to the restaurant otherwise, it is likely to end up on your bill.

      1. re: susancinsf

        Hi, susanincf. Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Surprisingly enough, my husband and I don't drink for religious reasons. Has nothing to do with whether my guests drink or not. Here's my opinion: when you host, you actually host. Not just partially. Sure, you can *just* buy drinks or appetizers or entrees or whatever for your guests, but I find it tacky. Ymmv.

        1. re: Hobbert

          Exactly this. I don't believe in half-assed hosting.

            1. re: Hobbert

              In this day of the litigious society we live in....I don't think by not offering or paying for someone to to get annihilated with free booze is considered half-assed hosting.

              It's simply being pragmatic in many cases.

              1. re: fourunder

                Eh. I don't hang out with people who get annihilated so I'm not concerned about getting sued.

                1. re: Hobbert

                  Most people can have one drink per hour and remain under the threshold for impairment....if they have more, then they most likely will be over.....if they get into trouble, it will be in the form of an accident that involves's the others that will sue you....the ones who hung out with you.
                  ; 0 )

                  1. re: fourunder

                    the ones who hung out with you.

                    That should have been...

                    NOT the ones who hung out with you.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      <it's the others that will sue you....the ones who hung out with you.>

                      Is this really what American laws have come to? Or should I say the count system? Someone get drunk in your party, and you get sued for their accidents?

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        yup...but I clarified with the post below,

                        NOT by the ones who hung out with you, but by the ones who get in the accidents with the ones who hung out with you.

                        Not the courts....but by the lawyers...They attach everybody.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Thanks. Now, I know more about the American law system.

                          Wait. Now, I have another question. Serious one.

                          A) If I provide free alcohol in a party (say wedding), and a guest got drunk and get into a car accident, then you are saying that I can get sued.

                          B) Now, if I host a party with a cash bar, and a guest bought himself/herself the alcohol, got drunk and get into an accident, then am I not responsible?

                          What I am trying to understand is:

                          Am I responsible because I financially paid for the alcohol (only apply to scenario A) Or am I responsible because I hosted an even which someone got drunk and I let that person leaves (apply to scenario A and B)?

                          Thank in advance.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Laws relating to social host liability vary widely under state laws. A more detailed explanation would require an extremely lengthy and off topic post, so I'll refrain.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              A. You definitely will be sued

                              B. You probably will be sued, as the strategy of all attorneys is to attach everyone and anyone possible who has even the smallest link to the event. That would include, but not limited to:

                              The host
                              The venue
                              The Bartenders

                              30+ years ago, I was sued as a bartender....the specifics of the case were I had arranged a barter deal between a country club for free golf and beverage for my bosses at the place where I worked at the time(restaurant) exchange for the CC to have free food and beverage at the Restaurant.

                              Everything was fine for a couple of years, but then one night an employee of the CC brought a friend in the early evening for dinner and drinks....they left before 9PM....only for this friend to return at closing time. We did not serve him and offered him a cab, but he got in his car when no one was looking and sped off. Subsequently, he hit two cars, got out of his car and was killed by oncoming traffic.

                              His estate sued the two cars he hit, as they were county and municipal vehicles, the restaurant, the Country Club and myself...although I was later dropped from the case.

                              The two cars he hit...the occupants of both cars sued the restaurant and the Country Club and the employee.

                              This would happen if you held the party in your home as well.

                              1. re: fourunder

                                Thanks for your information.

                                <His estate sued the two cars he hit>

                                I don't know to laugh or to cry....

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Hey, it was their fault they were in his way!

                                2. re: fourunder

                                  With all due respect (and I have a lot of respect for your food knowledge, fourunder) you have completely misstated the current status of the law governing social host liability in the majority of states.

                                  I try not to correct these types of comments in general because a full-blown discussion of the history and evolution of social host liability laws is necessary to any reasoned discussion of the subject, and far outside the scope of this forum.

                                  Despite your personal anecdotes, blanket statements like, "You definitely will be sued" and "the strategy of all attorneys is to attach everyone and anyone possible who has even the smallest link to the event" are misleading and inflammatory.

                                  In fact, the common laws that governed social host liability theories of 30 years ago have been greatly restricted (and in some cases eliminated) in nearly every state by legislative action. Lastly, it is impossible to make blanket statements regarding social host liability as it is an area that is controlled by state law and as such, varies from one jurisdiction to another.

                                  1. re: MrsPatmore

                                    Ok let me help Fourunder out since I am a native of his home state;

                                    " In New Jersey you will definitely be sued"

                                    (and I do believe that to be accurate for this State)

                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                      Chem had some history here too, if not mistaken.

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        Of course, I am in New Jersey. Don't you know Jrvedivici and I are the same person with two different/split personalities?


                                      2. re: jrvedivici

                                        Obviously this is not the forum to engage in a debate about the social host and dram shop laws of New Jersey or elsewhere, but I'll just note here that there are plenty of penalties for prosecuting frivolous and/or baseless claims, and I can assure you that these penalties (which are in the form of state statutes and/or court rules) are regularly enforced. Despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

                                        So, I'll be taking fourunder's advice regarding the fresh ham that we'll be cooking this weekend @210F for 12 hours . . . but I'll not be accepting his legal advice!

                                        With sincere best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy holiday season to all, MrsP :-)

                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                          In New York too. I got sued once by a former employer right after I quit, for something which had no grounds and I had the signed paperwork to prove it; but it took two years and much lawyer money to make it go away. But that was all they wanted anyway, to aggravate me. Learned a lot from that incident how it all works, the hard way.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            people get pissy over nothing. I knew someone once who was fired for giving her resignation notice.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              I know someone who did that routinely-- he didn't want a malcontent hanging around for two weeks. Depends on the circumstances, obviously. But that approach and reason would never have occurred to me. Just kind of interesting.

                                              1. re: hill food

                                                Oh yeah, my next company did that to me too. Ha I got the last laugh and got UI, on their dime!

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  this person was trying to be nice and gave extra notice, we all knew she was off to grad school in a month or two anyway, the boss and I were new, the company was in transition and we all could have used her insight, yet UI was denied (as she'd given notice and they just made it sooner than expected). total clusterf*ck.

                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    I was going for Family Medical Leave of Absence, after 20 years at this particular place. And they knew it, just cut me off at the pass. No biggie.

                                          2. re: MrsPatmore

                                            You are correct about the blanket statements and the restrictions....I owned a liquor license in NJ which I only recently sold, so I'm aware of my area...and much of the dram shop laws were drawn over the Fantasy Island case originating out of NJ....Yes the liability may be limited....but that doesn't stop the lawyers from initiating cases.....They hope for settlements, not convictions....they do not care about who is really responsible....if they did, then the true liability/responsibility would rest on the drunk only

                                            Using cars as an employees and friends have gotten into accidents and I've been sued both as an owner of the company and personally as the owner of the vehicles. I've been in one chain reaction accident...and the person who i hit from behind sued me, as well as her husband for being unable to have physical relations with I do have some unfortunate experience to share.

                                            Just look at the class action suits over the Target fiasco.

                                            BTW..thanks for the kind words....they have not gone unnoticed.

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              I will not disagree that there are unscrupulous lawyers just as there are unscrupulous people in every profession.

                                              Sadly, what gets lost in the over-generalization of such topics is that each case is very fact specific.

                                              There are legitimate damage claims just as there are illegitimate claims. And I can tell you that there are defense attorneys who are just as unscrupulous as any claimant's attorney.

                                              But the existence of these abuses (for which there are remedies, as I mentioned above) does not automatically mean that each and every case lacks merit.

                                              Anyhow, we're looking forward to serving that fresh ham on Sunday, fourunder! LOL I did show your pictures to some folks here and they're quite excited. So thank you for taking the time to not only provide the recipe but also the photos.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  OK chem - I promise! Actually one of my 2014 resolutions is to avoid the NAF board because I really do come to CH for talk about food and *somehow* I seem to get sucked into conversations about other stuff . . . including that recent thread that you started about tipping. I didn't participate -- and wow did that require self-restraint -- but reading it was a hoot hoot hoot!

                                                  1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                    Oh, I didn't even know it is a NAF. Man, I should get the heck out of here too.

                                                    You know I was joking about the "Leave him alone", right? I just thought it is a funny video.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      That tipping thread...My arse still hurts from the spanking.

                                                2. re: MrsPatmore

                                                  Thanks for that...but having been through the process, I also know for claims to go forward, they have to qualify.....Are you doing a Fresh Ham or Shoulder?




                                                  shameless promotion, I know...btw...who's the lawyer in the family?

                                                  : 0 )

                                            2. re: fourunder

                                              Lawyers are attracted to deep pockets.

                                            3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              I also had an account that had beer delivered to the office on Friday's for was a huge national and very well known Company (Computer/Consulting/Training). After one Friday, one employee got drunk and got into their car and onto the NJ Turnpike where she plowed into the rear of a car with multiple family members that was parked on the shoulder....Some of the occupants were killed. The Company was sued for a very large award/settlement and the driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter or homicide, whichever is correct or appropriate. She obviously did some time and was also sued....probably for wrongful death.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                There is a basic flaw in your question vs. what Fourunder was saying.

                                                You are asking first person, about the person consuming the alcohol, whereas Fourunder is speaking about the people whom the person consuming the alcohol get's into an accident with. (God Forbid).

                                                The two scenario's vary.

                                                1. re: jrvedivici


                                                  I think the highlighted comment ...was an error on my part that did not include *NOT* before <it's the others that will sue you.... *NOT* the ones who hung out with you.>...

                                                  Which I corrected

                                                  1. re: fourunder

                                                    No, we understand. At least, I did. I sort of did that "fill in the blank" thing.

                                                  2. re: jrvedivici

                                                    jrvedivici, in some jurisdictions, there are facts wherein the person consuming the drinks (who was later injured) could have a claim against the vendor (e.g. bar). These cases are very fact specific. As much as people want to be able to generalize, it's just not possible given the variations of state law. And these laws are frequently amended. So the law governing social host liability in 2013 may be completely different from the law that existed even just a couple of years ago.

                                                  3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    No, you will not get sued - but people who don't drink in America are encouraged, and willing, to be righteous about it and use this as one of many arguments why their weak lemonade-half a biscuit-hospitality is acceptable and morally superior.

                                                    Your insurance could be a target, but most homeowners insurance will explicitly disallow such a claim. Also, providing free hospitality which a guest then abuses does not give rise to a valid claim under american common law under most if not all circumstances. Somebody would have to take that on a contingent fee, and I assure you it isn't attractive for purposes of either liability or collection.

                                                    1. re: Teague

                                                      You may want to brush up on social host laws....


                                                      I'll let you do your own research to see if there have been any amendments

                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        Seriously, folks have been prosecuted for this in my neck of the woods. And successfully sued.

                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      The last few parties i've been to hosted by a company included 2 drink tickets per person. In no way do I believe that was done to limit costs. This IS the society we live in today.

                                                      1. re: Rick

                                                        Maybe it's because a company function is no place to get trashed, and if the company provides unlimited booze, some folks will get drunk and then will likely drive. Leaving out the possibility of a lawsuit (and by the way, when did it get worse to sue someone than to injure or kill them while driving drunk?), maybe the employer doesn't want to risk being partially responsible for that for reasons that involve morality. That's the crazy idea that occurs to me.

                                      3. re: Green_Shartreuse

                                        let's flip this around. by this reasoning, if i invited my friends out for drinks on me, and someone noticed there was a chateaubriand on the food menu and wanted to order it, i'd be a half-assed host for not buying it? logic doesn't hold. dinner doesn't by default include drinks, and it doesn't make you a "half-assed" or "tacky" host not to provide alcohol. in my opinion.

                                        1. re: chartreauxx

                                          I 100% disagree with you. A celebratory dinner absolutely implies drinks. Dinner and wine/drinks go hand in hand. If you host, you host.

                                          1. re: Green_Shartreuse

                                            I think drinks are expensive and not everyone has the means. I don't think those people should never host as a result. Do I love an open bar? Absolutely. But I take no offense when it's a cash bar. I do take lots of cash, though :) I would prefer to celebrate with my friends and family whatever their means - whether it's potluck, byob, cash bar or the works - rather than have them never host celebratory events because they could only "half-ass" it.

                                        2. re: Green_Shartreuse

                                          Stupid of me to post to an old post but your not hosting this party.

                                          Maybe the bar bill would be a financial strain on the OP. So should they not host a party if they can't go all the way? I would assume you wouldn't since it would be half assed by your definition. The question being is a whole ass is better than a half ass?

                                      4. re: susancinsf

                                        The original poster knows about his guests better than anyone of us do. You are correct that some people are not allowed to drink due to personal/religious/health reasons. Still, historically speaking, there is something to be said about "buying drink for someone" or "Your drink is on me".


                                        (read subtitles for 10 seconds).

                                        <I see no reason to put it in the invitation, as it is an invitation to dinner, not invitation to drinks and dinner. >

                                        This entirely depends on the crowd. The worst thing to do is to set the wrong expectation. I applaud the original poster effort to minimize the misunderstanding upfront. Some people do not assume free alcoholic drinks, while some do. Since the original poster bought this up, I assume there is a reasonable chance that his crowd has a tendency to assume so.

                                        At the end, the original poster knows his guests better and has to make his version of "tactical" language. He has to somehow make it clear that the alcohol is provided or not. His crowd may assume one way or the other.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          I agree that some people expect alcohol. However, part of my point is that it could well be that the OP thinks informing guests is the best way to avoid running up an unexpected tab. As I tried to point out: I don't think it is: informing the restaurant is a more reliable way of avoiding bill 'surprises', IMO.

                                          Obviously some people expect alcohol at all times. Whether they should expect that the host will always pay for it is another matter. The idea that someone who doesn't drink for religious reasons would pick up the tab for others, because it is 'expected', baffles me. I think under those circumstances it is rude to expect a drink. I base this on discussions I've had with non-drinking relatives: when my daughter became Muslim one of our first conversations was about how to handle the tab for drinks when we went to dinner together: she made it clear that her beliefs precluded buying me an alcoholic drink even though she was hosting. This doesn't bother me in the least but then, while I do drink I don't find alcohol to be a necessary part of any celebration. Indeed, one of the best parties I ever attended was her pre-wedding dinner/dance for out of town guests and relatives, held at a hotel. No alcohol served, great music and dancing (the entertainment was topped only by the incredible band at her wedding reception the next day), fabulous food, and a high end setting. If anyone really wanted or needed a drink the hotel bar was right down the hall.

                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                            I agree that in your daughter's case, no one should expect her to buy alcohol as a host. However, there's no indication that religion plays a factor in the OP's query. Frankly, that makes the choice quite simple.

                                            On a personal note, my husband doesn't drink due to his religion and I don't drink to honor his religion. He doesn't care if others drink in his presence and doesn't have any issue buying alcohol for others.

                                            I think we can disregard religion in the OP's post.

                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                              'I think we can disregard religion in the OP's post'.

                                              Why? because the OP didn't specify religion as a reason? I wouldn't make any such assumption, myself. I've known a number of people who don't broadcast their religious beliefs, and who, as a result, have to figure out other ways to avoid situations that might be uncomfortable for them. But, as I try to say in another post, I do believe that the OP's reasons are irrelevant. If he or she doesn't want to pay for alcohol, he or she should feel free to host an event without alcohol, without her guests thinking it is rude to do so, regardless of the reason. Just IMO, of course.

                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                <Why? because the OP didn't specify religion as a reason?>

                                                First, because the original poster said the word "foot their own drink", so it sounds like a money thing. Second, if I am a Muslim or a Buddhist or whatever who believes alcohol is evil, then the matter won't even be paying/footing the bill. I would most likely ban alcohol at the my party. Money won't even be an issue at that point.

                                                It would be like a Muslim banning pork in the party. You said your daughter is a Muslim, right? I assume she probably banned pork in her wedding party, and not just merely asking the guests to foot the bill for pork dishes, right?

                                                <he or she should feel free to host an event without alcohol, without her guests thinking it is rude to do so, regardless of the reason.>

                                                Hmm.... you do understand that is what we are trying to avoid right? Of course, the host should feel free to host without paying for alcohol. We are trying to help the original poster to nicely phrase it to his/her guests.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I think you miss my point, or I miss yours. My original response was to a statement that there is *NO* good way to let folks know that alcohol will not be hosted. I agreed that it is fine for the host to let people know nicely (and as I already said, reasons really aren't relevant, and the host should not feel an obligation to state the reason, whether it is religious or other). My issue is with the attitude that there is no nice way to state it. Actually, I admit it, I have an issue that there is a need to even state it: I will say it only one more time: if I am invited to 'dinner' then dinner is what I expect. I consider it rude to expect more from the invitation than is offered. Again, and for the last time, obviously that pushes some buttons for those who believe that the absence of alcohol is so unusual that it must be explained. We must agree to disagree on that point.

                                                  p.s.: Just FYI, there was alcohol provided at some of the wedding parties hosted by my Daughter's Muslim in-laws. (they are in Tunisia, where weddings go on for several days. Hence it was 'parties' not just one 'reception' or 'party'.) In my admittedly somewhat limited experience, what it means to be observant varies as much in that religion as in any other.

                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                    <I think you miss my point, or I miss yours.>

                                                    Yes, and I think it is both. (see below).

                                                    <My original response was to a statement that there is *NO* good way to let folks know that alcohol will not be hosted.>

                                                    Ah. I see. That wasn't my point.

                                                    <My issue is with the attitude that there is no nice way to state it.>

                                                    I think there is a nice way to state it.

                                                    <Actually, I admit it, I have an issue that there is a need to even state it>

                                                    I think that is our real difference. I do think it is important to state it because some people can get confused. I am not saying that most people will get confused. I am just saying that some will.

                                                    <I consider it rude to expect more from the invitation than is offered.>

                                                    Maybe. But why not eliminate this confusion? I do agree with you that MOST people I know won't assume that, but some will.

                                                    <In my admittedly somewhat limited experience, what it means to be observant varies as much in that religion as in any other.>

                                                    Yeah, it depends a lot. I have a couple Muslim friends from Turkey who drink more quiet a bit. You probably have more Muslims drink alcohol than Mormons do.

                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Personally, I wouldn't be offended by an invite that said "no host bar" That pretty much says it all.

                                                    That being said, I agree with Susan that a dinner invitation need not include alcohol nor should it be expected. And sometimes folks who are trying to keep the bill down will provide, say, wine with dinner and instruct the wait staff to let folks know that other drinks are on the individual. Heck, I've done that.

                                                    But if one doesn't want to serve alcohol for whatever reasons, there is no need to explain why, nor would I expect it. I have some good friends that have what can only be described as a "party house": plenty of room to socialize, great open kitchen, beautiful swimming pool, etc. They often host get-togethers. And when they send the invitation, they always say something like: "We'll have iced tea, lemonade and sodas. Please bring your favorite beer or wine if you would like." I know for a fact that they are not members of a religion that prohibits alcohol. Yet they have never provided alcohol at one of their many parties. I have never asked them WHY they don't provide alcohol; (money is also clearly not the reason) and I never would. Its just none of my business. But clearly they are fine if others bring it; they have always had wine glasses, corkscrews, etc available. And I have NEVER cared that they never provided alcohol....It just isn't expected.....

                                                    1. re: janetofreno

                                                      I'm glad to finally see somebody mention "no-host bar" as an option. The reason doesn't really matter, as long as I know about it beforehand and don't get shut down by a waiter, or worse, my host, when trying to order a drink. My only question would be whether the host simply doesn't want to provide drinks, or if my host objects to alcohol, period, for whatever reason. That would make the difference whether I wandered off and got my own drink or not.

                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                        well, as I learned elsewhere on this thread, apparently the term "no host bar" is not understood in many parts of the country. I had no idea it was a regional dialect. So apparently folks aren't familiar with the term in many areas, or possibly interpret it differently.......(ie several mentioned they thought it meant "make your own drinks"). Learn something every day.....

                                                      2. re: janetofreno

                                                        If they don't mind people bringing booze, I can't shake the impression that they're just being cheap.

                                                        1. re: Green_Shartreuse

                                                          It may not be that they are cheap....maybe they got burned once before...

                                                          I used to go out with a crew that drank heavy.. Everyone took turns reciprocating with the exception of a couple of mooks....After a while, not with the crew, but whenever I was out and these two were in of my friend told me I was as good a guy as him because I didn't buy as many drinks as him....I told Him i would always buy as many drinks for him as he could consume, but not his it wasn't that i was not a s generous as him....just not a s stupid.

                                                          People take advantage.. When my father owned a bar, we would buy back. One customer, would drink a bottle of beer or drink Johnny Red....when you bought the drink, he always has Johnny Black.

                                                          maybe the host just doesn't want someone taking advantage of him...or he's had prior bad experiences of some sort.

                                                          1. re: fourunder

                                                            If you're providing in a controlled scenario like a party or a dinner out, I don't see how it's possible to take advantage. I mean, if you have that little faith in the crew you're running with, have the restaurant print a limited drink menu. At your home, offer just a few things, but offer *something*.

                                                            1. re: Green_Shartreuse

                                                              I've owned a restaurant....people steal everything....I've thrown parties....people take home extra booze in the coolers happens.

                                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                                If you let guests in your coolers, that's your B.

                                                                This is a dinner party- no one will be stealing.

                                                                  1. re: fourunder

                                                                    I am, as well at the OP's dinner party.

                                                          2. re: Green_Shartreuse

                                                            'If they don't mind people bringing booze, I can't shake the impression that they're just being cheap.'

                                                            Really? I don't get it.

                                                            I can't figure out why anyone who was 'just being cheap' would host a dinner party for friends. It seems to be thinking the worst of people to assume that their reasons are 'cheapness' as opposed to say, having personal reasons for not wanting to pay for alcohol, or say, not being able to afford hosting drinks. I am really bothered by the idea that someone would think poorly of another for choosing to invite some friends or family to dinner, with a menu of the hosts' choosing.

                                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                                              I guess I'm just of the mentality that the host provides. Asking my guests to bring something completely goes against how I was raised.

                                                          3. re: janetofreno

                                                            I agree with you completely but I think you have to let guests know in advance that it is a cash bar or that only wine with dinner will be provided. Few people carry a lot of cash these days and sometimes restaurants or caterers aren't equipped to deal with plastic. A good friend recently hosted a beautiful luncheon to celebrate her son's graduation getting his doctorate. The invite said cash bar, but I appreciated the follow-up email to let us know it was truly cash only. I wouldn't have cared not to have that glass of wine with lunch, but I did enjoy having it during the beautiful but lengthy speeches.

                                                        2. re: susancinsf

                                                          The OP asked what the most tactful way to communicate this is. To me, the most tactful way is to call my friends (these are friends, right? not arbitrary people?) and say "Hi, John, I'd love to invite you to a Chinese New Year party I'm hosting at XYZ restaurant on date/time. I'm not sure if it's ever come up, but I practice ABC religion, so I won't be paying for alcohol but if you'd like to drink, please feel free to stop by the bar and grab a drink before dinner."

                                                          Also...I know "people" don't broadcast their religion, but if I'm friends with you, I know what religion you are. Everyone on my team at work (11 people) knows everyone else's religious beliefs. I know all my friends religious beliefs. Religion is such a basic part of who you are that I'm not sure how that doesn't ever come up in conversation with someone you have more than an acquaintanceship with. Just my opinion.

                                                          Regardless, it seems to me that the OP just doesn't want to shell out for alcohol. That's fine. It's their choice. I find it a bit tacky if it's based solely on saving a buck, but that's me.

                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                            i disagree. what's tacky about being aware of your budget, wanting to entertain and do something nice for your friends, but also being realistic about your own financial realities?

                                                            1. re: chartreauxx

                                                              I agree with you chartreauxx, I'd rather see a friend stay within their budget instead of putting a big bar tab on their credit card just so they can be a "good host."

                                                            2. re: Hobbert

                                                              i have friends who are "friends of bill."
                                                              the drill at their home is that those of us who want to consume alcohol can bring our own and the hosts will provide glassware, corkscrews, etc.,
                                                              we are also expected to remove/pour out any remaining booze when we leave.
                                                              the thing is, we are FRIENDS of the host and he was completely comfortable communicating his preferences to us.

                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                wsg - I too have such friends. it's become a "bring your own and take your own" and I am more than fine with that.

                                                                when meeting out with some FOB's (who are OK with others drinking) who don't feel comfy in a bar, I suggest a cafe and I can have a snort, they can have coffee and we can all have really good nibbles. as I'd rather talk with them than be jostled by idiot strangers anyway.

                                                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                                                    Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous

                                                          2. re: susancinsf

                                                            <informing the restaurant is a more reliable way of avoiding bill 'surprises', >

                                                            I agree. Informing the restaurant will definitely avoid running up unexpected tab. However, informing only the restaurant but not the guests may cause some ill-feelings. Some guests who come to the party may expect free drinks. To find out only later from the servers that he/she needs to pay for the drinks may cause some people feel embarrass and then anger.

                                                            I think it is important to communicate to the restaurant and to the guests -- again, it really depends the kind of guests. Some people assume free dinners mean free drinks.

                                                            <The idea that someone who doesn't drink for religious reasons would pick up the tab for others, because it is 'expected', baffles me. >

                                                            Well, I think most people understand that. If the host is a Muslim, then he probably won't throw an alcoholic wedding. If the host is vegan, then there may be no meat in the party.

                                                            I don't know if lemonseleven is a drinker or not, but it sounds like he/she is mostly concern of the cost.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              For all of you who think it is different for a Muslim: but that assumes that the guests *know* the host is Muslim (or has other personal or religious reasons for not wanting to serve alcohol): are you saying that the host has to broadcast that fact by being very clear in invitations that alcohol won't be served 'because our religion doesn't permit it' (Unstated sub text: 'but we know some people don't share our beliefs and expect alcohol at all celebrations so we are letting you know we fall into one of those exception categories')?

                                                              But presumably more to the point of this post, if the assumptions some of you are making are correct that the OP doesn't want the extra expense of alcohol does he or she, as the host *really* need to broadcast that fact? Apparently drinking is such an ingrained part of our culture that it is rude not to provide it at a hosted event because people will expect you to serve it, even if guests are invited for 'dinner', not for 'drinks'. Again, I just don't get it, but then, for me, food is more important to a celebration than is alcohol. I am well aware this isn't the case for everyone.

                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                ??? I am lost.

                                                                Anyway, what I am saying is that many Muslims do not drink. (The truth is that many Muslims do drink alcohol. Alcohol is not a hard ban like pork consumption. Alcohol is discouraged, but not banned.) Anyway, the reason they don't drink can be easily said as "religion", but also because alcohol as a mind altering intoxication substance.

                                                                In short, if you are a non-alcoholic drinking Muslim, most people understand that you believe alcohol has an evil effect, and therefore you won't provide alcoholic drinks.

                                                                <Apparently drinking is such an ingrained part of our culture that it is rude not to provide it at a hosted event because people will expect you to serve it, even if guests are invited for 'dinner', not for 'drinks'.>

                                                                It isn't so much that alcohol must be served in a dinner. It is a matter of confusing language. When I go out on a date, and say "Hey, I like to buy you dinner", many people assume wine is PART of the dinner. They don't expect me to pay for the steak and then say "Jane, you are so beautiful. By the way, I only said I will pay for the dinner, you should pay for your white wine". That is the problem. It is an alcohol specific thing. They also expect desserts to be part of the dinner as well, which some people may not technically consider desserts to be part of dinner, while many do. "Hey Jane, I like to come to my home later. Oh, by the way, you need to pay for your creme brulee. It really isn't part of the dinner."

                                                                When I say "I will pay for the food", same thing, some people think alcohol is PART of the food.

                                                                It isn't a matter of right or wrong. I am just saying that the original poster should communicate this.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  "It isn't a matter of right or wrong. I am just saying that the OP should communicate this"

                                                                  Yes, they should. To the restaurant. So that there is no billing confusion or embarrassment. But my original response was to Hobbert, who says there is no good way to communicate it and that it is in fact 'tacky' to 'save a buck' by not including alcohol. If that isn't a judgement that it is wrong not to host alcohol when one hosts dinner, I don't know what is.

                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                    Actually, my "judgement" has little to do with alcohol and more to do with hosting. When you host at a restaurant and your guests are handed a menu and they cannot choose freely from that menu, yes, it's tacky. If you have a fixed menu, fine. If you host a party at your home or a banquet hall or a park and provide food and drink, great. My quibble is in limiting what your guests can have from an obviously available wider selection. You seem pretty focused on the alcohol part, so I'll add this: when I host a get together at my home, I don't provide alcohol. I do, however, have an assortment of food and drink that all can enjoy. BYOB is fine with me but that's clearly not standard restaurant practice so not a helpful suggestion in this case.

                                                                    Hope this clarifies.

                                                                    1. re: Hobbert

                                                                      When you host at a restaurant and your guests are handed a menu and they cannot choose freely from that menu, yes, it's tacky. If you have a fixed menu, fine

                                                                      Having reading posts on dining out in restaurants on this's quite common in restaurants to only offer a limited menu as policy for any group over 10 patrons....Sometimes the decision is not yours..

                                                                      What confuses me about your position though is this. You say if you do not provide freely, that's tacky...but if it's a set menu it's fine.

                                                                      Isn't limiting the menu the same as a fixed menu?

                                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                                        Yes and no. Having a fixed menu, to me, is different from handing your guests a menu and tell them the items on it they can't have, which is what the OP more or less wants to do, in my opinion.

                                                                        1. re: Hobbert

                                                                          It's a good analogy. The host is limiting your choices to what he or she is willing or able to spend.

                                                                          I can't even imagine being offended by a host not providing alcohol, it's not something I'd even think about as an invitee.

                                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                                            I don't see anywhere that suggests or implies the OP is providing a menu...and if I were invited, i would assume as a party and he has pre-set the menu, as in a banquet, given the event and celebration...either way though I don't see how it's tacky....or being cheap. If that's how you feel though, I respect that, but I have to ask again then,

                                                                            would you attend such a party and invite.

                                                                            Unless I've missed some details, he has not mentioned how many guest he is inviting. If it were a small number of guest, then I could possibly understand your position....but if it were a large number than, then I could not.

                                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                                              I think we've beat this to death but to answer your question- yep, I'd go. Like I said above, I don't drink :)

                                                                      2. re: susancinsf

                                                                        <it is in fact 'tacky' to 'save a buck' by not including alcohol>

                                                                        I think it has to do with the setting and the cultural and the people you are hosting. Let's say wedding. I have been to a few weddings with my grad school friends, we often talked among ourselves if the reception has a open bar or a cash bar. This implies that we don't assume free alcohol. I have also been invited to a few Chinese wedding banquets. Almost every Chinese banquets I have been to, the alcohol is free. Now, you don't get to pick what alcohol you can have, and sometime it is just cheap beer. However, the alcohol bottles (cheap or expensive) are set on the tables. Sometime before and sometime during.



                                                                        So I think it really depends on the guests. There may indeed no easy way to communicate it without "embarrassing the guests"

                                                            2. re: susancinsf

                                                              I just read these posts. I am in a dilemma…I want to have a get-together for my husbands 60th birthday. I would like to get together at a piano bar and I would like to pay for the drinks…however my husbands children drink excessively. If I offer an open bar…they will drink till drunk. How do I manage this? I don't want to limit the others who will be there because they will likely have 2-3 drinks at most…but if I don't put a limit on the drinks…his kids will have 20 each. I can't single them out without offending them so what is the best way to handle this without breaking the bank?

                                                              1. re: 2dogs

                                                                talk to the restaurant/bar. maybe you can arrange to purchase "drink tickets" in advance, and distribute those to guests (maybe an invite like "please join us for [name]'s birthday! [#] drink tickets will be provided per RSVPd guest. we look forward to seeing you there!").

                                                                1. re: chartreauxx

                                                                  this sounds like a good solution to an awkward problem, if available. Or perhaps a arrangement where you were paying for food and cover charge if any but not covering the drinking would make more sense. Your moderate drinking guests would not mind paying for a drink or two, if you arranged an enjoyable venue.

                                                                2. re: 2dogs

                                                                  Just to clarify a couple of things....."I would like to pay for the drinks" would insinuate that you want to run a "tab" and you want to pay the tab at the end of the night.

                                                                  "If I offer an open bar" "Open Bar" would be where you pay the bar a flat fee, per person, per hour and it's an open bar. People can drink as much or little as they like, and it's all included in the per-person price you are paying.

                                                                  Running a tab can cost you a fortune if you have some true drinkers (like me) in the crowd. A true "Open Bar" would solve that but you are generally paying more for those who don't drink, to off set for those who do. (like me)

                                                                  1. re: 2dogs

                                                                    What if you offered a cheerful "We'll get the first round!" or something of the sort... then the kids will understand there is a limit (and if you like you can let it go for more than one round if you feel comfortable).

                                                                    Otherwise, I think the ticket system is your best option. Most places will do this (you may have to provide the tickets).

                                                              2. It kind of depends on your crowd. I'm going to assume that if this is your plan, you run with a crowd where this is socially acceptable.

                                                                Do you plan to cover non-alcoholic drinks? That's probably the best bet - then you could say something like "In addition to the meal, tea and soft drinks will be provided, and a full bar will be available at your own cost."

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: jw615

                                                                  I would not cover any drinks at all so there is not any confusion. Perhaps word the invitation, that you will be providing the food, but that a "cash bar will be available for guests". JMO

                                                                  ETA: OK I read the rest of the thread - I guess I'm repeating others' good advice. ;)

                                                                2. Well, since I have watched many Chinese movies, let me give you a few pointers. :P Just kidding

                                                                  You are generous to buy everyone dinner. Drinks can get very expensive and I understand why you want to separate this portion out. It is always a balance between being absolutely clear and being polite. How much you want to spell it out.... that is entirely up to you.

                                                                  It is much easier to say these things to a Chinese audience in Chinese. Not sure if they are Chinese.

                                                                  I don' know your friends, so what work for my friends may not work for you.

                                                                  Have you consider the other way around? That is you pay for the alcohol and they pay for the food. Doing it this way, it will be clear and tactical. You will say. "I like to invite all my friends and family for a Chinese New Year Party at the local restaurant. Alcohol expense -- on me!" (酒,我付!) I think most people understand that the food are on them, and you will pay for only the alcohol.

                                                                  If you prefer to pay for the food, and not the alcohol. That is ok too. What you do is a traditional method. You order the dishes up front. By the way, have you ordered the food course yet? Or are you allowing your guests to order individual dishes? Assuming you do the traditional dish course, then what you say is that the food course has been paid (菜席已付). So you have to pay the entire food course up front, and tell everyone that. This pretty much implies that you are not paying anything beyond that -- especially alcohol.

                                                                  If you really want to spell out some more, then you can spell it out.

                                                                        1. re: Jeri L

                                                                          Really? I've never seen no host bar on any invitation only the words "cash bar" meaning bring your cash to buy your own drinks. Very common phrase and practice when the host is not covering drinks from the bar.

                                                                          Either certainly means the same thing. Maybe I'm just not that hip :)

                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                            Maybe a regional thing? Where I live (Seattle area), the term most often used is no-host bar.

                                                                            1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                              I've seen both terms. everyone understands (it's not translating Old Church Slavonic after all)

                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                You may be familiar with the term, but as someone who has never seen the phrase "no-host bar," it is not at all obvious to me that it means the guests must pay for their own drinks. My first impression of it was that it implied a self-serve open bar (no bartender). I believe you that it doesn't mean that, but it's not self-explanatory.

                                                                                1. re: BobB

                                                                                  Yeah, I've never heard that term and I would've thought that too. I assumed it meant you serve yourself until someone here explained it.

                                                                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                    I never heard the term no-host bar until I moved to Montana. Got burned when I went to a wedding and didn't bring any money.
                                                                                    They also use it here in TX.
                                                                                    Never saw it used where I grew up in the NE, was cash bar.

                                                                                    1. re: saeyedoc

                                                                                      I'm also a New Englander (cash bars here). It's definitely a regionalism.

                                                                                      1. re: saeyedoc

                                                                                        I'm in Northern VA and we also use the term cash bar. Must be regional.

                                                                                        1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                          I didn't realize the term had any variations until this thread.

                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                            Lol me neither. American expressions can get pretty weird.

                                                                            2. re: Jeri L

                                                                              I was sure I was totally misunderstanding the question and the resulting debate until I read this. Yep, this is my understanding of the question and the answer.