group of people smiling at an event

Is your event breaking the law?


Incorrectly filed permits, insurance complications, and poorly written contracts can stop an event dead in its tracks before your guests even step through the doors. How can you make sure you're in compliance?


Consider this your backstage pass to the legal labyrinth of event organization, with your own private walkthrough. We’ll guide you through all the legal considerations for events that should be on your radar and more. 

Permits and Licenses

A permit is simply permission from your local government for your event to be hosted in the location and format that you desire. Depending on the type of event you're hosting, you might need one or more of the following permits:

  • Building Permit
  • Temporary Use Permit
  • Food Permit (Including Food Truck or Trailer Permits)
  • Alcohol Permit
  • Amplified Sound Permit
  • Electrical Permit
  • Park Use Permit
  • Entertainment Permit

Your venue may already have the necessary permits needed for your event. But it's important to know what permits are needed so you can make sure you're covered. Not sure where to secure your permits? Try contacting the Parks & Recreation Department or Building & Safety Department. If your town has a 311 number or small business liaison, those can also be good places to start.


two people shaking hands over a contract

Agreements and Contracts

Contracts formalize agreements with vendors, entertainers, sponsors, etc. and play a vital role in event organization. Keep in mind, it’s always helpful to consult legal counsel to ensure everything is in order. Here's what you need to know about event contracts:


1. Be Specific. Clearly outline the responsibilities, deliverables, and expectations of all parties involved. The more specific your contracts, the less room there is for misunderstandings or disputes later on.
2. Mitigate Risks. Contracts should also address liability and risk management. Define how potential disputes will be resolved, and include clauses to protect your event from liability.
3. Protect Your Intellectual Property. If your event involves creative elements such as branding, logos, or original content, contracts should outline how intellectual property rights are managed. This prevents unauthorized use and ensures your event's brand integrity is preserved.
4. Cover All Your Bases. Given the unpredictability of events, including a force majeure clause in your contracts is essential. This clause allows for the suspension or cancellation of contractual obligations in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as natural disasters or pandemics.


Many vendors you work with may already have contracts in place when you begin working with them. To be on the safe side, you may want to contact a local attorney to look over them with you prior to signing. Said local attorney can also help you draft a contract of your own if necessary.

Managing Liability

Beyond what is required by law, you should also consider your event’s liability risks. Proper risk management strategies should be in place to address any potential accidents, injuries, or property damages. When managing and minimizing liability risks, don’t forget about:


1. Insurance. One of the most effective ways to mitigate liability is by securing comprehensive event insurance. This can include general liability insurance, which covers bodily injury and property damage, as well as special event insurance that provides coverage for specific event-related risks.

2. Safety. Prioritize safety at your event. Implement crowd control measures, provide adequate security, and conduct thorough risk assessments. You may even consider having a medical personnel on standby to address any emergencies.
3. Waivers/Releases. Consider using waivers and releases for certain activities or attractions within your event. Waivers make guests aware of any associated risks and absolve you of liability in event of injury.


Not sure how to go about getting comprehensive insurance? We’d recommend consulting your insurance agent to determine the best policy for your event. For waivers and releases you can also consult your attorney or visit websites like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and LawDepot. These sites (and many more) offer templates that you can tailor to your event’s specific needs.


woman holding a checklist and pen

Legal Compliance

Legal compliance refers to your obligation to follow all relevant laws, regulations, and standards. Here are some key areas to focus on:


1. Accessibility. Make your event accessible to individuals with disabilities. Comply with accessibility guidelines, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States, to ensure all guests can enjoy your event without discrimination.

2. Alcohol and Food Service. If your event involves alcohol or food vendors, there are certain regulations to be aware of. Secure the necessary permits and licenses ensure safety along the way.
3. Environmental Regulations. Depending on your event's size and location, you may need to address environmental regulations. This could include waste management, noise restrictions, or adherence to eco-friendly practices.
4. Ticketing and Privacy Laws. When selling tickets and collecting guest information, it’s crucial to comply with data protection laws. Your guests are trusting you with their information so it’s your responsibility to safeguard it. The right ticketing platform will have safeguards already in place for you.


You probably have a lot more questions about the specifics of compliance and a great place to turn to is your local Chamber of Commerce for the answers. They can provide you with lots of information and resources for not only compliance issues, but contract, permit, and liability issues as well.

Specific Considerations for Non-Profit Events

When it comes to non-profit events, the legal side of things can become a bit trickier and there are some extra rules and regulations to consider. To keep your tax-exempt status, you've got to wade through some specific parameters to maintain tax-exempt status. Make sure you're transparent with your finances and document every penny – it's your golden ticket to staying on the right side of the law. And when it comes to volunteers, know the legal ins and outs to keep everyone safe and sound.


Many non-profit events involve raffles or silent auctions which also require special attention to preserve the chain of custody for cash donations. There are specific regulations, including obtaining special permits to conduct raffles and auctions, to keep in mind. There may also be limits on the value of prizes, requirements for reporting a winner, and restrictions on the use of proceeds to be aware of. You can find more detailed information on your state government’s website, at your local Chamber of Commerce, or by consulting legal counsel.

Ticketing Done Right

Now let’s talk ticketing. It’s important to make sure you clearly communicate the terms and conditions of ticket purchases. This includes refund policies, event rules, and any disclaimers regarding event risks. And in an effort to avoid misleading guests, you should disclose ticketing fees and be transparent about pricing. 


As we mentioned earlier, it’s also important to ensure your guests’ personal information is protected. Your guests trust you to ensure you have proper data security and protection so their information is safe. 


Luckily if you partner with Passage, we do all we can to safeguard both your guest’s information and your own, all while protecting you from ticketing fraud.

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Final Thoughts

Hosting events requires careful attention to event legal requirements, permits, and compliance. You must proactively address these legal considerations to ensure a successful and safe event. And remember to seek out legal counsel when in doubt.


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