students walking on campus

Responsible Hosting Guideline


As a social host, it is your responsibility to provide guests with a safe environment in which they can have fun. Moreover, you want to make sure that everyone lives to remember the fun they had. Whether the event is held at a home, in a bar, or other types of commercial establishments, your main responsibility is to protect your guests.

This booklet is designed to give hosting organizations guidelines and strategies for having a safe and successful party. These Responsible Hosting Guidelines are referred to in the “Medical University of South Carolina Student Policy for Alcoholic Beverage Serving” and should be considered prior to completing the MUSC Alcohol Service Request Form.  Another resource for general event planning and management is the Office of Student Engagement, 843-792-2693. Please call or come by with any questions regarding serving alcoholic beverages and/or event planning.

You are strongly encouraged to make an appointment with the appropriate staff member to discuss the planned event and submit an MUSC Alcohol Service Request Form.  College-sponsored events will require the approval of the sponsoring organization’s college’s Dean or his/her designee. University-wide events will require the approval of the Executive Director of Student Engagement.

The MUSC Alcohol Service Request Form must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the event. If you are planning to sell alcohol or charge admission to an event where alcohol will be included in the admission price, you will need to begin the process of acquiring a “Temporary Beer, Wine, and/or Liquor License Permit” at least six weeks prior to the event.

South Carolina Law and Your Responsibility
South Carolina laws/statutes related to alcohol service are directed to commercially licensed establishments. Since student organizations and individuals are not commercially licensed, they are considered to be “social hosts.”

Although S.C. does not have specific laws pertaining to the service of alcohol by “social hosts,” violations of statutes related to the sale, possession, or consumption of alcoholic beverages may result in liability to the individual, student group, and MUSC. As a host of an event where alcoholic beverages are served/consumed, it is your responsibility to be aware of these statutes and to do your best to see that these laws are complied with at your function.

S.C. statutes specify that:
A) It is a misdemeanor for a person under the age of twenty-one to possess or consume alcoholic beverages.

B) It is unlawful to sell beer or wine to an intoxicated person.

C) A beer and wine/or liquor license is required for the sale of alcohol. Sale of alcohol is defined to include events where the admission price includes alcohol or contributions are requested for alcoholic beverages.

D) It is a violation of state law to drink publicly on the streets or public property, or to have an open container of alcohol in any vehicle.

The spirit of the “Medical University of South Carolina Student Policy for Alcoholic Beverage Serving” and MUSC Alcohol Request Service Form is to help assure that student event planners are aware of these statutes and responsible hosting strategies and plan to comply/implement them at their event. The Medical University of South Carolina, its employees, and agents do not by approval of any student function, accept liability arising directly or indirectly from said event. 

Techniques & Strategies for Hosting a Responsible Party

Obtaining a Temporary License to Sell Alcohol

If you are planning to host an event where alcohol is sold or included in the admissions price, it is highly recommended to hold the event at a commercially licensed establishment, ie., a restaurant or a bar. If this does not suit your organization’s plans and you wish to have your event at an unlicensed facility, you will need to secure and display a S.C. Temporary Beer, Wine, and/or Liquor Permit. To obtain one, your faculty advisor will need to complete and submit the required forms to the SC Department of Revenue. Timeliness is of the utmost importance in obtaining the permit so you should plan on this taking 6 weeks to complete as there are many parts to this process.

Note: Another way to have an event at an unlicensed facility is to partner with a 501(c) designated non-profit organization and have them be responsible for attaining the temporary permits.

The Office of Student Engagement can assist in acquiring the necessary forms that will be needed to complete the process. SC Department of Revenue form ABL-900 will be needed to obtain the Temporary Beer/Wine and/or Liquor Permit; this packet can be downloaded at Department of Revenue. This packet contains a checklist that can assist in determining what information will be required.

Note: Recent legislation has changed the permit process and certain requirements have temporary adjustments. Please check in with Student Engagement to get the latest updates.

Things needed to fill out the Form ABL-900:

  • An admissions or retail tax license number will be needed to complete the ABL-900. If the organization does not have either type of license, they can apply for Admission Exemption # by completing an Admissions Tax Exemption (form L-2068). This can be located at Department of Revenue. Typically, exemption 4 or 11 will be used for all student related activities (see Exemptions to Admission Tax on form L-2068).
  • A sled check will need to be conducted on the faculty advisor that applies for the permit. The applicant can do this online at Sled State website and selecting Citizens Access to Criminal Histories (SLED CATCH). The fee for this service is $25.00. A copy of this sled check must be attached to the permit application.
  • A Verification of Lawful Background for Applicant’s Principals form (ABL-920) must also be filled out and notarized and attached to the permit application. This form should be included in the ABL-900 packet.
  • If a non-profit organization files for the permit, they must also submit a copy of the IRS 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), 501(c)(6), 501(c)(7), 501(c)(8), 501(c)(10), 501(c)(19) designation by the IRS or certification from SC Secretary of State stating the organization is a political party or its affiliate.

Once all this is acquired, Form ABL 100 (included in ABL 900 packet) must be signed by a representative from the Police Department of the jurisdiction where the event is to be held. If the event is to be held in the City of Charleston, call Ms. Olive Alston-Coleman at 843-720-2449 and then deliver all forms mentioned above to her in the Police Dept. at 180 Lockwood Drive. She will call you when the forms have been approved (typically 2 to 3 days).

Upon obtaining all the requirements above (completed ABL-900 SLED check, Verification of Lawful Background for Applicant’s Principals form) you can take all forms and a check made payable to the SC Dept of Revenue ($10 for Beer/Wine and $35 for Liquor) to the local SC Dept of Revenue office located at:

2070 Northbrook Blvd.
Suite B7
North Charleston, SC 29406
Phone: 843-852-3600
Fax: 843-556-1780

You can also mail the forms and check to the main state office:

SC Dept. of Revenue,
Att: ABL Section
301 Gervais Street
Columbia, SC 29214-0907

Again, timeliness is of the utmost importance in obtaining the permit so you should plan on this taking 6 weeks to complete as there are many parts to this process. 

Promoting the Event

A) When issuing an invitation, email, or designing a flier, emphasize features of the event other than alcohol service, i.e., networking, philanthropic opportunities, food, location, and entertainment.

B) Promote the designated driver concept and encourage alternate forms of transportation.

C) Visit the Student Engagement Communications webpage for information on effectively promoting your event on campus through the communications network. (Note: Alcohol can be listed in the event description, but images of alcohol and the use of alcohol in the title should be avoided).

General Event Supervision

A) Designate an “event manager” who will abstain from drinking and be responsible for supervising the party from beginning to end. Multiple managers for larger events are recommended. Ideally, event manager(s) will have read this information and helped complete the MUSC Alcohol Service Request Form.

B) In addition, it is always a good option to hire one or more off-duty MUSC Public Safety officers or private security to assist with the event management. Public Safety officers will help manage the entrance; monitor the event in progress; and help assess guests’ conditions when the party is over. To arrange for Public Safety’s presence at your event, contact Major Dorothy Simmons at 792-4196. This should be done at least 2 weeks prior to the date the officer (s) are needed. The number of officers required will be determined according to the event location and the number of guests expected. Officers must be paid upon conclusion of the event. Arrange for Officer(s) to arrive 30 minutes before the event begins and to stay 30 minutes after or until all guests have left.

Managing the Door

A) Greet guests at the door to assure that there are no “party crashers” and that underage guests are clearly identified (see 4B). Have valid identification (government issued picture ID showing age) checked by MUSC Public Safety Officers and/or authorized personnel at commercial establishments. Although only a small number (e.g., 50 or less) of MUSC students are under 21 years of age, you also need to be concerned about the age of students’ guests. While greeting guests at the door, make sure that they have made plans for a safe ride home. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this pending on the type and size of your event. One option you can consider is informing guests about group members who are serving as designated drivers at the end of the event. Please see section 9 of this document “The Party’s Over: Getting Home Safely” for more information on offering ways for guests to get home safely.

B) It is strongly recommended that wristbands be used to distinguish legal drinkers. Do not use markers, stamps or anything that is easy to remove, transfer or replicate.

Managing the Bar

A) Never serve alcohol to anyone who is underage or who appears to be intoxicated. Hire professional bartenders. The purpose of this practice to protect you and your organization as social hosts where alcohol is being served and to assure that impaired and underage guests are more readily identified and that reasonable drinks are poured and distributed. Keep in mind that it will be easier for professional bartenders to be firm and impartial

a. Students should not be used as servers for any reason. Hire professional bartenders who carry at least a $1 million dollar liability policy. 

B) Limit the time of the party/alcohol service to 3 hours. With the exception of certain special events, any longer than 3 hours is too long. At a banquet or dinner party, do not let the “cocktail hour” last long enough to see the effects of drinking on an empty stomach. Make appetizers readily available, especially if the cooking or service is slower than anticipated.

C) Close the bar before the event is officially over – 60 minutes is recommended but 30 minutes may be more realistic depending upon the event location. It is not a good idea to have people consume alcohol right before they leave the premises. Consider offering non alcoholic beverages and dessert as a “night cap.”

D) To slow down consumption, have a cash bar or give each guest a limited number of drink tickets.

E) Have a reasonable amount of alcohol for the crowd you anticipate. Given the different factors that affect blood alcohol concentration described in this publication, the body can typically metabolize one drink an hour. In planning for consumption at this rate and the number of people you expect, bear in mind these measurements when stocking the bar:

1 keg of beer = 165 (12 oz.) servings
1 750 ml bottle of wine = 5 (5 oz.) servings
1 1.5 liter bottle of wine = 10 (5 oz.) servings
1 liter bottle of liquor (33.8 oz.) = 33 (1 oz.) or 22 (1.5 oz. servings)

F) When hosting a private party, serve alcohol in glasses that are an appropriate size for the above measurements. “Yards of Beer” and giant mugs are risky and not recommended.

G) Waiting for a drink is not a bad thing. As a host, of course you want to guests to get good service, but waiting in a short line to get to the bar helps slow things down.

H) Do not serve “doubles” or “shooters” or play drinking games.

I) Encourage the consumption of non-carbonated mixers. Carbonation speeds up the effect of alcohol.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages
A) Have an enticing variety of non-alcoholic beverages convenient and available for folks who choose not to drink, cannot drink, or who have had too much to drink. Along with an assortment of soft drinks (diet and regular), provide at least one non-carbonated beverage; i.e., lemonade, iced tea, coffee, fruit juices or bottled water. There are numerous recipes for appealing punches and “mocktails” to be found online.

B) Alternative beverages should be as appealing and as easy to locate at an event as alcoholic beverages. Make cups and ice readily available. Bear in mind that 30 percent of the general population does not drink alcoholic beverages.

Serve Alcohol with Caution AND FOOD
A) Focus on food and make sure you have plenty of it at your event. Plan to feature food and make it a significant event budget item. Brainstorm with colleagues about what foods would enhance your event theme and about new ideas/resources for a substantial, yet cost effective, menu.

B) Limit serving anything that stimulates thirst, primarily salty and spicy snacks and food.

C) Emphasize high protein foods (like meats, cheeses, eggs, unsalted nuts, and seafood). They buffer the alcohol by remaining in the stomach longer and slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.

D) Grocery stores, wholesale stores (i.e. Publix, Costco), and restaurants (i.e. Chick-fil-A ) have good selections of prepared appetizers and deli platters.

Entertainment and Creating the Right Climate

A) Make sure that guests are comfortable at your event. Be sure to introduce and include everyone in the festivities.

B) Have some entertainment besides the bar. Dancing, games, conversation, etc. keep people busy and amused. Brainstorm with your co-planners to come up with some creative ideas to make your event fun and memorable

The Party’s Over: Getting Home Safely
A) Do not let your guests consume alcohol right before they leave the party since the effects of the alcohol may hit them on their way home.

B) As your guests prepare to leave, do your best to assess their level of impairment.  Never let an impaired guest drive home. Help them get a ride with a sober guest, call a cab or let them stay at the event site.

C) When planning an event, organizers may want to consider prearranging for transportation or formalizing a designated driver program. Resources for pre-arranged transportation include but are not limited to: Absolutely Charleston, 843-747-4448 (8 to 11 passenger vans, 30 to 34 passenger trolleys, 25 to 38 passenger buses); Gray Line Tours, 843-722-4444 (25 passenger buses); and Carolina Transit, 843-681-3970 (47 and 57 passenger buses). Additionally, the following taxi services area available:

Charleston Green Taxi 843-819-0846
Charleston Black Cab Co 843-216-2627
Yellow Cab 843-577-6565

A suggestion for formalizing a designated driver program is to offer the designated driver an incentive such as free event admission, movie tickets or another give away. You many want to consider noting designated drivers with a sticker or specifically colored plastic wristband.

D) Nothing but time will sober someone who has had too much to drink. Coffee consumption, exercise, and cold showers are all myths. A general rule is that it takes as many hours to sober up as number of drinks consumed

E) If an individual is drunk and abusive, immediately get your on-duty Public Safety Officer to assist in the situation. Don’t confront drunk and abusive guests without assistance.

F) If an individual passes out, seek medical help immediately.

G) Evaluate this event and alcohol service for the next time and for future event organizers. Make notes of successes and areas that need improvement (especially regarding safer alcohol service).

Effects of Alcohol on the Body:

Alcohol is used for a number of reasons, including relaxation or stress reduction, to facilitate social interactions, and to feel good. The effectiveness of alcohol in producing these effects depends on a number of factors. These factors include the type of alcoholic beverage consumed, the amount and rate of consumption, characteristics of the individual consuming alcohol, and other factors, such as food and/or other drugs consumed. Brief information about these factors is presented below.

Of importance is the fact that in South Carolina a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or eight one hundredths of a milliliter of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood is considered legally drunk. This amounts to about one drop of alcohol per 100 drops of blood. Although this may seem like an extremely small amount, the behavioral effects of alcohol can be seen in lower concentrations.

Signs of Intoxication

Lowered Inhibitions:
A person may show a slight personality change, such as appearing relaxed or becoming overfriendly, or being talkative, loud or obnoxious. Others may become introverted and reclusive, drinking alone.
Impaired Judgment:
A person may increase his/her rate of consumption, order doubles, order rounds for the house, or buy drinks for total strangers. Others may become angry or emotional, and sometimes fights may break out.
Slowed Reactions:
These signs include loss of concentration, glassy eyes, slurred speech, drowsiness, and inability to focus their eyesight, and loss of eye contact.
Poor Coordination:
These signs include difficulty in walking or talking properly, problems in picking up change off the bar or lighting a cigarette; slumping over the bar; or an inability to sit up straight or drive safely. If a person is exhibiting signs of slowed reactions or poor coordination, he/she is too intoxicated to leave and someone must intervene to insure the safety of the intoxicated person.

Factors Determining Alcohol Absorption

Amount and Rate of Alcohol Consumption:
The average person can metabolize 0.5 oz. of pure ethyl alcohol per hour. Consequently, drinking more than one standard drink per hour increases the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream and therefore, increases the effects of the alcohol. For example, beers at 4 percent alcohol X 12 oz. = 0.48 oz. of ethyl alcohol.

Type of Alcoholic Beverage Consumed:
12 oz. beer (4 to 6 percent alcohol content) = 5 oz. wine (10 to 12 percent alcohol content) = 1.5 oz. liquor 
(80 proof) = 1 oz. 100 proof liquor (see below)

Characteristics of the Individual:

A) Body Size - Generally, if a larger person and a smaller person drink the same amount of alcohol over the same period of time, the larger person will have a lower blood alcohol content at a given time after drinking. This is because the larger person would have a larger volume of blood and body water for the alcohol to mix with. On the other hand, since alcohol does not mix with fat, a larger person with a great amount of body fat may achieve a similar or even higher blood alcohol content compared to a smaller person who has relatively little body fat.

B) Gender - If a man and a woman are the same size and drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman will tend to have a higher blood alcohol concentration at a given time after drinking. There are two reasons for this. First, women tend to have proportionately more fatty tissue and less body water than men; therefore, for a given intake of alcohol there is less water in women to dilute the alcohol. Second, a stomach enzyme (alcohol dehydrogenase) which breaks down alcohol is less active in women, thus allowing more alcohol to pass through the digestive system into the blood.

C) Physical Status - The majority of alcohol (90 percent) is processed by the liver. The remaining portion is either processed by other organs; e.g., stomach, or excreted via lungs or urine. A person experiencing problems with these organs will have a reduced ability to process alcohol. His/her blood alcohol concentration will be higher and tend to remain higher longer.

D) Mental Status - People often drink to alter their mental status. Thus, alcohol is some times called a social stimulant because it helps people who are normally shy become more sociable. Alcohol also helps people who are in stressful situations to relax. Depressed people may drink to “wash away their blues.” People may use alcohol to diminish the effects or even enhance the effects of stimulant drugs.

E) Tolerance to Alcohol - People who consistently and frequently drink alcohol may develop tolerance (reduced action) to an amount of alcohol which previously produced effects. This is because metabolic and/or cellular systems have adapted to handle more alcohol.

Other Factors:

A) Food - Food in the stomach, particularly foods high in protein such as meat and cheeses, can significantly slow down the absorption of alcohol into the blood. In contrast, salty foods such as popcorn and salted peanuts make people thirsty, thus tending to increase alcohol intake. (For more information, see Section 7).

B) Use of Other Drugs or Medications - Alcohol often interacts either additively or synergistically with other drugs. Therefore, the use of alcohol when one is taking medications or using recreational drugs is often risky.

Finally . . .

Thanks to the following resources for providing the information used to prepare this publication:

  • Keith Purdy with A Southern Bartender Service
  • MUSC Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving
  • S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services
  • MUSC Charleston Alcohol Research Center

Please call the Office of Student Engagement at 843-792-2693 for safe event planning assistance or with any suggestions you may have for increasing the effectiveness of this publication.