Alcohol Policy and Procedures

Policy Overview

Columbia University is committed to creating and maintaining an environment that is free of alcohol abuse and that complies with state laws and regulations governing alcoholic beverages involving University activities. Therefore, the University has developed the Alcohol Policy implementation procedures and mandatory training programs for students who plan events with alcohol. For information on the drug and alcohol policy, please refer to the University Events Management website

Alcoholic Beverages at Events

Events with alcohol are infrequent and atypical given most undergraduates in Columbia College and Columbia Engineering are not of legal drinking age.  A student group considering an event on or off-campus with alcohol must thoroughly read through the Alcohol Statement of Policy on the Event Management website. Your event must have a social, educational, or cultural theme, and you must be able to articulate why alcohol is a necessary component for your event to be successful.

Alcohol cannot be purchased with recognized student group allocation.  Revenue may be used to purchase alcohol if the donors/sponsors clearly understood this potential purpose.

Required Knowledge and Information 

The first step is to meet with your adviser and review your goals, plans, and resources for the event.  The specific procedures your group will need to follow are determined by a variety of factors, and this web site can only provide a general idea of what you will need.  Your group adviser remains the primary resource as you embark on planning an event with alcohol.

If you believe that serving alcoholic beverages would be an appropriate component of an event, you are expected to have undergone Columbia University alcohol policy training and to understand fully both New York State law pertaining to alcohol and Columbia University’s alcohol policies and procedures. These policies describe the minimum standards that apply to all Columbia University functions, regardless of whether they are held on-campus or off-campus. Departments and facilities may add additional requirements and conditions. Your adviser’s approval and your adherence to Columbia University policy are required for all events, on or off-campus.


Mandatory Process

The following steps must be taken in order to serve alcoholic beverages at an event:

1. Reserve the space in which the event will be held. This should be done well in advance of your event and you should not wait for the Alcohol Registration process to be completed.  Because the event must be able to stand alone without the aid of alcohol, space reservations should not be determined by approval to serve alcohol.

2. Have two club officers of legal drinking age who will coordinate the event. One officer will serve as the Alcohol Manager (AM) and the other as the Event Manager (EM). Both the EM and the AM should be trained by Columbia University in planning events with alcohol. Participation in one of the training sessions offered by Columbia University is mandatory for these officers. Clearly, substantial forethought is required to be sure these officers are trained in advance of seeking approval for the event. Please note that these training sessions only occur at the beginning of each semester. Lerner Hall Administration manages alcohol policy and training so please refer to their web site for specific dates and policy changes.

3. Obtain your adviser’s approval for the event and complete an Alcohol Registration Form at least ten days in advance. Columbia University requires that your event be approved by your group’s adviser if your event will be:

  • Held outdoors on Columbia University property 
  • Opened to the Columbia University community 
  • Funded by Columbia University 
  • Attended by more than fifty guests 
  • Involving the exchange of money for any reason.  

The Columbia University alcohol policy additionally requires that your EM speak with your adviser about any event at which alcohol is to be served. The policy’s requirements apply to both you and your adviser, who is required to discuss the event in detail with you prior to deciding whether to approve the event. Among the details that must be discussed are attendance, proctoring, health issues, the availability of food and non-alcoholic beverages, the quantities and types of alcohol to be served, monitoring of the drinking age, and event management.

4. If your adviser approves the event, complete a registration form and obtain your adviser’s signature. Include the account number to be charged for proctors.  Submit the approved application to your adviser at least two weeks prior to the event.  Your advisor will review your application, determine how many proctors should be assigned, direct you to apply for a temporary beer and wine permit if money will exchange hands in any way at the event, and inform you whether the event has been granted final approval.

5. Clear all arrangements in advance with the coordinator of the facility at which your event is scheduled. Many areas often have additional requirements of their own for events serving alcohol, some of which may take weeks to complete. Be sure to determine this well in advance of the event to avoid last minute problems.

6. Obtain a temporary beer and wine permit if money will be exchanging hands at the event for any reason. The New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Board requires that a temporary beer and wine permit be secured whenever money will exchange hands for any reason at a function in an unlicensed premise at which beer and wine will be served. The unlicensed sale of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited. Hard liquor may not be sold in an unlicensed area nor dispensed with a temporary beer and wine permit. Lerner Hall administration has a temporary permit which covers events serviced by Columbia Catering in Lerner Hall but any other events serving alcohol require a permit. 

Temporary (one day) permits allowing the sale of beer and New York State wines within a specific designated area may be obtained from the New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Its office is presently at 11 Park Place, New York City, and they generally require two weeks to obtain a temporary license, good only for a single event. Columbia University will assist your group in applying for this license through your advising office.

With the approval of your adviser and at least two weeks prior to the event, your group’s representative must:

  • Obtain a letter from your adviser certifying that your group is a registered Columbia University organization and specifying the date, time, and place of the function
  • Complete an application for a license
  • Obtain a certified check or money order for $25.00, payable to the New York State Liquor Authority
  • Hand deliver all of these items to the New York Alcoholic Beverage Control Board between 9:00 am and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • If approved, the temporary beer and wine permit will be mailed to you or you will receive a call to pick it up. In recent years, this has taken a minimum of approximately ten business days.  A copy of your temporary permit should be given to your adviser five days prior to the event. The permit itself must be displayed at your event.

6. Abide by the Columbia University alcohol policy and the terms of the approval of your event. Failure to do so may prevent your organization from holding events serving alcohol in the future.

Finalizing an Event

Once your adviser has approved the event, the temporary license has been applied for, the space has been requested, and all planning has commenced, you should ensure that your event has been registered with University Event Management (UEM). If the event is not registered with UEM, your group risks cancellation of the event. You should meet with UEM administrators early on in your planning process to ensure that registration has taken place properly.

Expectations of Event Managers

The EM is primarily responsible for overseeing the whole coordination of an event, serves as the first point of contact in the case of an emergency or crisis. The EM identifies the problem, assesses the situation, and connects with the appropriate support resource (i.e. alcohol manager, proctor(s), venue manager, security guard) in the event that the situation becomes too much for the student manager to handle. For a Barnard venue, in the case of an emergency, the EM initially contacts the Barnard Security Supervisor on duty.

The EM arrives to the event a half hour before the start to meet with the proctors and if possible other support personnel (i.e. venue manager, security), for introductions and event briefing.  During that briefing, the proctor is responsible for identifying the proctoring team, the venue manager, and the location of the security details. The EM will be responsible for identifying the alcohol manager, the bartenders, and additional student supports.  The EM must not consume alcohol prior to and through to the conclusion of the event and must be present for the entire duration of the event including wrap-up and event conclusion.

Expectations of Alcohol Managers

The AM is the person overseeing the alcohol component of the event which includes managing everything from the request for distribution of alcohol at the event and all processes before and after. The AM must be familiar with the Columbia University alcohol policy and the available support resources at an event (i.e. venue manager, proctors, security, staff, etc.). The AM must have completed alcohol training and must be at least 21 years of age, must not consume alcohol prior to and during the event, and must support the proctors and bartenders at all points of alcohol distribution at an event.

The AM reports directly to the EM.  The AM must be present for the entire duration of the event including wrap up and event conclusion. Expectations to all student managers will be communicated first at the advising level and next during the alcohol training and event management training. 

Accountability of the Sponsoring Organization 

In the case of an event going badly (i.e. policies were violated, agreements not honored, improper conduct of participants and student management), the sponsoring student organization will be held responsible. In the instances where there are co-sponsorships, all sponsoring groups will be held accountable. Sanctions will be determined after discussions with advising offices, student organizations, and the event management offices.  Sanctions could include damage assessments, increased security costs for future events, and suspension of privileges for a specified period of time.


Your event may not be publicized until it is approved by your adviser. All publicity must state that two forms of identification verifying proof of age is required for the consumption of alcoholic beverages and may not mention or depict alcohol in any other way.

Food and Beverages

Food and non-alcoholic beverages must be continuously and amply provided and displayed throughout the event.

Management Reminders

Neither members designated to serve alcohol and check for proof of age nor the event coordinator may consume alcohol.  The event coordinator must arrive one half-hour early to meet with the lead proctor.

Only the approved amount of alcohol will be allowed at the event.  If a punch or other mixed drink is prepared in quantity before or during the event, it must be mixed in the presence of the proctors, not before their arrival.

You must enforce Columbia University policy at the event and may seek the assistance of a proctor or security officer if necessary. If an emergency arises during the event that creates an unsafe or dangerous situation, go to the proctor and then call Security and CAVA. After the event, report any problems you experienced to your adviser.  At the specified closing time, all service of alcoholic beverages must cease. Proctors are not authorized to make exceptions to these rules.

Keg Protocol

Kegs are not allowed in the residence halls on the Morningside campus, Brownstones, or in Lerner Hall.  Wherever kegs are allowed, all keg-poured beer must be served in a clear 12-ounce cup.  All servers must be of legal drinking age and must refrain from drinking while serving.


In accordance with Columbia University’s Alcohol Policy, Student Affairs will determine if proctors will be assigned to the event. If persons under 21 years old are present, proctors must be used. Proctors may be required for additional reasons other than age of participants or physical location of the event. If proctors are assigned to the event, proctor information will be listed on the approved form and available prior to the event from your Student Affairs adviser. The Event Coordinator must contact the lead proctor at least twenty-four hours before the event to discuss alcohol policy and the role and responsibility of the proctors. The proctors’ role is primarily to identify those of legal drinking age, appropriately handle the distribution of alcohol, and effectively monitor behavior at the event.

Serving Alcoholic Beverages

Only the amounts and types of alcoholic beverages approved for your event may be served. Alcohol must be served, one drink at a time, only to persons who have been checked for proof of age, and must not be served to anyone who is drunk or disorderly. Both the temporary beer and wine permit and a warning on the effects of alcohol during pregnancy must be displayed. Unused alcohol will be disposed of completely as directed by the lead proctor. No alcohol may be stored past the ending time of the event and no alcohol may be removed from the physical location of the event — this should be taken into account along with other factors in planning for the event. All bartenders must be 21 years of age or older and must display ID before the start of the event.  

Two forms of valid proof of age (21 or older) are required to drink alcoholic beverages and must include a US or Canadian driver’s license or non-driver identification card, passport, or US Armed Forces identification card. A CUID card may serve as the second proof of age. Approved wristbands must be used to identify those who have shown proper proof of age.

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