How to Decide Between a Host Bar and an Open Bar

ImageMay 25, 2010 by Leigh Murdock
Host bar versus open bar – have you ever wondered what the difference is between these two arrangements? Hotel event managers actually get this question a lot, so I figured it would help to explain the difference. 

Host Bar
Payment for a Host Bar is measured on consumption. You’ll pay a bartender fee and settle a bill at the end of the night that covers all alcohol consumed. Some hotels will charge you on a per drink basis and keep track of how many orders were placed for each type of drink. Others will measure the bottles at the end of the night and estimate how many drinks were consumed. Either way, you’ll be charged for all alcohol consumed.

Because the Host Bar is cheaper than an Open Bar, it’s a great option for an audience that isn’t expected to drink very much. Be careful though: many guests don’t know the difference between a Host Bar and an Open Bar. As far as they’re concerned, their drinks are being covered so they may get a drink only to set it down, forget about it, and order another. This could end up getting pretty costly. I hear many stories of planners being shocked at the bill at the end of the night

I caution you of you this particularly for weddings and social functions. This type of bar is probably better fit for a corporate event with a crowd that won’t get rowdy.

Open Bar
An Open Bar is paid for at an hourly rate in addition to a bartender fee. For a set amount of time and rate (e.g. $20 to $25 for the first two hours), your guests will enjoy unlimited beverages. You’ll most likely have the option to choose from a selection of liquors, wines and beers that you would like to offer your guests. It goes without saying that top shelf and premium liquors will run you a higher hourly rate. 

While you’ll have to commit to a timeframe for the Open Bar, it’s a great way to show your guests a good time and not have to worry about the bill at the end of the night. Many clients experience sticker shock when they choose a Host Bar and don’t realize how much is will actually be consumed. At the same time, if you expect little alcohol to be consumed, an Open Bar is not likely your most cost-effective option.
Study your guestlist and make an informative decision the next time you are deciding on a drink arrangement. Wise planning will save you money at the end of the night.


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