Bar Basics: Host vs Open Bars

In the event world, questions get thrown at us and sometimes we don’t know the answer right away. One question you might get asked is what type of bar you should have. This question can be answered easily, but you need to know the basics.

There are two main types of event bars: host and open.

Host Bar

Payment for a host bar is measured by 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.

When to Use

If you don’t think your guests will drink as much, then this is a good choice. It’s also the cheaper option, so keep it in mind if you have a more humble budget.

Host bars are typical for corporate events, but take caution if you want to choose one for a wedding or social function. Guests might get offended or not realize and run up the tab.

Open Bar

These are 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.

When to Use

If you except your crowd to drink more, then you can use this bar to set up unlimited drinks for a certain amount of time. Guests can drink without worrying about anything and you don’t have to fear the final tab since it’s pre-paid.

Don’t choose an open bar if you expect your guests to consume very little alcohol. Study your guest list 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.


Caroline Howard

Written by Caroline Howard

Northern Virginia native turned southerner at The University of South Carolina. My skills include planning 4,000 attendee corporate events and then blogging about them. My friends always ask where I am, because when I'm not behind my laptop writing, I'm off exploring new places like Cuba and Spain.