Auto · Home · Life · Business · and more...   Go

Managing Risk: Thinking Outside the Tasting Room, Volunteers & Overnight Guests

wine tasting room sign
A general business policy often will not cover after hours events and volunteers.

Many wineries today are expanding their engagement with the public and wine club members beyond the tasting room — offering guests the opportunity to host events, volunteer in the vineyard and even stay the night in accommodations on their picturesque piece of wine country. Several winemakers and wineries are also taking their product on the road to off-site events and tastings. While these activities are a great way to market your product and add additional revenue streams, they also come with their own set of risks. Making sure you have the right insurance coverages in place will help protect your core business.


Event Insurance

Wineries are increasingly sought for private events — from corporate entertaining to weddings and family reunions. As you add event offerings to your amenities, making sure you have proper contracts and risk transfer measures in place is vital to protecting your business:

  • Make sure your contract stipulates that your client, the organization or individual/family hosting the event, have event/wedding insurance with your company listed as additional insured. The contract should also require that the client’s policy include liquor liability coverage. Over-serving alcohol is the greatest risk with an event of any size.
  • Your vendor contracts with bartenders, caterers, party rental companies, etc., should also require that the vendor carry insurance, including liquor liability coverage if serving, and has your business listed as additional insured.
  • If you are hosting your own event, such as an annual music festival, make sure you talk with your agent, sharing the event details and size estimates, so that you have the proper liability coverages and limits in place.
  • Off-site events that you participate in should also be covered under your liability policy. Ensure that your liquor liability coverage includes off-premise sales and tastings.


Volunteer Insurance

Agri-tourism volunteer activities are especially attractive to wine enthusiasts who want to experience the wine making process, and they’re a great opportunity for you to build relationships with your customers. Because volunteers are not paid employees, your workers’ compensation insurance may not cover them if an injury occurs. Some workers’ compensation policies have a “voluntary” endorsement. By name, this endorsement is misleading. It actually does not cover volunteers, rather it pertains to domestic/farm workers or sole proprietors/partners. To make sure you are covered if a volunteer should have the misfortune of getting injured while working on your property, you should take the following proactive measures:

  • Have your volunteers sign a waiver that releases you of responsibility if medical treatment is required as a result of the volunteer activity. Also include a release of liability form with the liability waiver. This ensures that the signee waives the right to sue and assumes any risk involved in the volunteer activity. Your attorney can help you draft a suitable waiver and release form and can advise you of potential issues of enforcing such a waiver.
  • Even with a waiver and release form in place, it is still smart to carry volunteer accident insurance. Volunteer accident insurance covers volunteers’ medical costs associated with an accidental injury while working on your behalf.


General Liability Insurance for Overnight Accomodations

If you’re adding overnight accommodations to your winery, such as a B&B, cottage or VRBO rental, it’s important to add a line item to your general liability policy for the additional lodging revenue. Your insurance broker can also help you determine safety measures that should be implemented to make sure your property is safe for guests 24/7.


Get a Quote


Jay Christensen is a winery insurance and risk management specialist, working with dozens of wine industry clients throughout the Pacific Northwest.


This content is for informational purposes only.  Consult your actual insurance policy for details regarding terms, conditions, coverage, and exclusions.

Text Us