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Ottawa > Ottawa Event Planning > Planning an Event > Permits License and Insurance  

Permits, Licenses and Insurance

Permits, licenses and insurance are often overlooked until too close to the actual event, when bureaucratic timelines can make it very difficult to get the necessary paperwork in place. One disorganized event chair forgot to apply for a liquor permit. Unfortunately, she was coordinating a charitable wine tasting, and the event had to be cancelled. Directly, her forgetfulness cost the charity money because of necessary cash outlay, along with the lost revenue (even though many ticket purchasers kindly refused a refund). Long term, the relationship between the sponsoring wine company and the charity was damaged. All because a $50 permit did not make it onto the check list.

Many venues (and some permit issuing governments) will refuse to book an event, unless it has event-specific insurance, designed to cover guest safety and, in some cases, damage to the venue and injury to its staff.

Permits and Licenses

  • Permits/licenses may be issued by the state, province, county or municipality the event takes place in. Permits may come from several different levels of government. The higher the government level, the longer it usually takes to get a permit
  • For example, hosting an event in San Diego might involve the County Health Department (food), the State Alcohol Beverage Control (liquor), The Port of San Diego (location), the California Coastal Commission (location), the City of San Diego (location), etc.
  • When planning a wedding, check to see if there is a waiting period involved after the license is issued ? Some cities may require letters of support from recognized community groups and businesses, depending on the impact the event will have on the area
  • Liquor and catering permits create the most common problems, but there are often ordinances that deal with noise levels, event parking, use of public facilities such as parks and waterways, etc.
  • Some municipalities require disability access before issuing permits or licenses ? The venue contact should be able to inform the coordinator about various licenses and permits. Please remember to add this as in item to discuss with the venue contact--they may even do it from their end. When a host company is working with a charity, the charity can often apply for the permits at a reduced cost and with greater leeway
  • The appropriate departments and application forms can increasingly be found online, although a wise organizer will allow for a slower response time than is common in the business world
  • The event’s organizer is legally responsible for getting rights and permits for the use of any intellectual property at the event, including music, video, resource materials, software, etc.
  • Remember to include permit and licensing fees in the budget


  • Make sure there is enough insurance to protect the host company, the venue, staff, volunteers, and participants
  • Insurance can be tailored to the event variables. Wedding insurance, for example, can be purchased to cover a change of mind, catering mishaps, uncooperative weather, and more
  • Insurance is available for one-off events; costs vary depending on the risk levels of the activities involved. The host corporation’s insurer may be willing to give a preferred rate
  • Some reward/incentive events (like a golfing or a beach day for staff) will require a signed waiver from each participant
  • Read any insurance contract carefully to ensure that the terms of agreement are not inadvertently voided
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