Is Your Facility Ready to Host Events?

By: Markel Insurance

As the spring season brings new life to the vineyards and offers opportunities of growth, so too are winery owners looking for new growth in their operations with increased sales.  Having a great experience at a winery results in improved customer loyalty, increased publicity and more sales.

One way to maximize your public exposure is by hosting events.   The activities can be small and simple such as an acoustic guitar on the back patio or larger concert exposures.   Events can include wine club dinners, fund raisers, vendor shows or weddings.

In planning for the events that will best suit your operations and facility, several key elements should be reviewed to help minimize losses and protect your assets.  Understanding your target market and what activities are best for you are as unique as each blend of wine.  Current markets have several popular events, including yoga stretch and sip; Wine Paint and Pour; Races through the vineyard or even a vendors “farmers market” offering local crafts and products.

There are the tried and true, more traditional activities expected at a winery with Crush or Harvest festivals, pickin’ party, club dinners and weddings/shower events.

You should consider the space needed based on the anticipated number of participants and any specialty needs, including tables & chairs or tents, rental equipment, caterer or DJ/vendors.

Once you have an idea on the type of event that will appeal to your demographics, a quick checklist can be reviewed.

Facilities Checklist for Hosting Events:

  • Is the use/occupancy rating for the property acceptable for the type of event?
  • Will you be able to provide adequate staffing for supervision?
  • Is there clear signage for acceptable vs restricted access areas?
  • Are there any ADA compliant concerns at the facility?
  • Based on the attendance expectations, will there be enough bathrooms, trash cans, water stations, shade/covered areas?
  • Are the electrical demands up to code? Who manages the setup and takedown for stage and dance floor exposures?
  • Is there emergency personnel on site?

Slip, Trips and Falls

Liability losses related to the facility most commonly relate to the slip, trip or fall category.  Not to underestimate the severity of what seems to be a simple loss cause, the following claim shows a good illustration of what can happen.

  Real-life claim example: A small concert event on a patio that required additional electrical power and resulted in cords running along the open patio.  A trip and fall occurred resulting in a fractured hip.  A surgery turned into an infection, causing a second surgery and extended recovery time.  With lost wages alone, the price was rising, and when finally settled to include medical, the shared cost was nearly $1.7 million.

Parking

Parking can be an often overlooked, but it is an important influence on the experience of the customer because it can be the first and last impression for any event.

Parking Factors to Consider

  • Is there adequate parking based on the number of attendees and is it easily accessible?
  • Always consider the path for emergency vehicle access (fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances).
  • Should local authorities be notified of the event and to help route the traffic flow in and out of facility.
  • Make sure the parking lot is clear of debris and free of obstacles with clear walking areas outside of traffic pattern.
  • Verify all areas of the parking log are well-lit for evening use and not susceptible to rain or vehicle being stuck.
  • Have clearly marked flow patterns and parking lanes help eliminate confusion and frustration.
  • Determine if you will have attendees directing traffic, or will be offering valet parking or any shuttle/transportation.

  Real-life claim example: Parking mishaps may leave you exhausted, or exhaust-less.  A vineyard/winery cleared a small lot to have as overflow parking for their outdoor event.  A small tree stump remained and although not a concern for the tractor or owners pickup truck, was not concealed enough to avoid damaging the exhaust systems of several customers that parked in the field lot.

Security

Depending on the size of the event, the responsibilities of the host grows with increased attendance.  When managing crowd control, do you rely on winery staff or opt for hired security.  Are there any weapons carried by other than law enforcement?  Do you hire off duty local law enforcement or an independent contractor.  Rules and procedure should  be clear relating to checking coolers and bags; not allowing any outside liquor; and restricted areas, especially where there is an attractive hazard, i.e. – open barns, fire pit, swimming pool/fountain/pond.  As an aside on fire, any open flame, fire pits, bon fires, outdoor grills, burgers and s’more’s cooker should be reviewed to make sure there are proper barriers, clear space and storage of combustibles.

Contracts and Certificates

Contracts and certificates should be in place for all vendors, caterers, artist, or instructors.  Each certificate of insurance should be from an  A rated or higher admitted carrier with limits equal to or greater than your limits, naming you as an additional insured, owner of premises.

Pets

People love their pets and pet lovers typically believe that everyone else should also be a pet lover, especially their pet.  From an insurance standpoint, it is not recommended to have pet friendly events.   If pets are allowed is there restrictions to be on leash or in designated areas.

Is the vineyard dog allowed to mingle in the crowd, “unsupervised?”

Know the difference between a professional service animal and a therapy pet and have clear rules so that you avoid an issue of selected acceptance or exclusion and can rely on your policy language.

Minors

Although minors may not be the norm for the tasting room, family friendly events can bring in a broad age range.   Have you crawled through your facility lately?  What may be obvious to an educated adult, may not be as clear to a child.  Locks and barriers are better than signs alone.  Have staff training to look for hazards and anticipate a lack of parental supervision.  Most wineries are not suitable as a daycare operation and should not have any childcare exposures.

Miscellaneous Exposures

  Evening Events: As a general rule of thumb, liability goes up when the sun goes down.  For many reasons, whether it be the time element of consuming more alcohol or just the visual difficulties to recognize hazards, losses are more likely as events run into the evening hours.   Having events that are shut down by 10:00pm would be considered a good practice and depending on your coverage carrier, may be a requirement.

  Cyber Security: Cyber / data breach coverage can include storing the credit card information for your club members, but can also apply to online purchases and any ticket sales for events.

  Private Events: When dealing with a special private event such as a Wedding or private party, clear contracts are the key.  The greatest frustrations come for unmet expectations.  Make sure all parties know what is being provided and what the expectations are for contracts, payment, timeframes or services.

  Real-life Claim Example: A facility that was not closed to the general public during a wedding event.  There was no clear detail on a separation of the wedding party areas vs the public access tasting room area.  In a clash of Party vs Public, tempers rose, words were cast and a white wedding dress is now a shade of cabernet.

Conclusion

This checklist is not all inclusive for all the unique elements to all event types.   The checklist should be a starting point for your facility.  Before hosting more events at your facility, review what type of events will be the best fit for your situation to provide a great experience for your guest.  Try to create events that will have a positive marketing buzz and will also increase your income while minimizing your exposures to loss.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments.

  Please contact us or your insurance professional if you have any questions. Products and services are offered through Markel Specialty, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated (national producer number 27585).  Policies are written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary.

For More Information Please Call Us At…800-814-6773, or Visit Our Website: markelinsurance.com/winery

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