Avoid Illegal Discrimination in Event Hosting

A bar/restaurant venue. Photo Credit: Austin Distel on Unsplash.com

Understanding the legal responsibilities that come with operating establishments such as bars, restaurants, taprooms, and tasting rooms is essential for ensuring smooth operations while upholding principles of fairness and inclusivity. In this post, we’ll delve into the intricate terrain of anti-discrimination laws in the United States, with a particular focus on Florida, shedding light on permissible reasons for refusing service and offering insights into crafting event hosting policies that align with legal frameworks.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

In the United States, businesses generally have the right to refuse service to anyone, but they cannot discriminate against a particular class under federal, state, or local law. The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, and veteran status. Florida’s Civil Rights Act of 1992 also aims to secure freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. However, political affiliation is not explicitly listed as a protected class under these laws. While businesses can’t refuse service based on a customer’s beliefs, if there are outward manifestations of those beliefs that are disruptive to other customers or staff, then businesses most certainly can ban those customers.

Refusing Service for Reasons Other than a Protected Class

 In Florida, a bar can refuse service to an individual or group under certain circumstances. Here are some legally permissible reasons:

  1. Disruptive Behavior: The operator of a public food service establishment may refuse service to any person whose conduct on the premises displays intoxication, profanity, lewdness, or brawling.
  2. Disturbance: Service can be refused to anyone who indulges in language or conduct such as to disturb the peace or comfort of other guests.
  3. Illegal or Disorderly Conduct: If a person engages in illegal or disorderly conduct, the establishment has the right to refuse service.
  4. Illegal Possession or Dealing in Controlled Substances: If a person illegally possesses or deals in controlled substances as defined in chapter 893, service can be refused.
  5. Nuisance: If a person’s conduct constitutes a nuisance, the establishment can refuse service.

Event Hosting Policy

To ensure that decisions to refuse service are legally defensible, it’s recommended to have a written event hosting policy and event hosting agreement. Here are some recommendations for an event hosting policy that puts limits on access by controversial or political groups:

  1. Clear Definition: Define criteria for identifying controversial or political groups, based on publicly available information such as statements, actions, or affiliations.
  2. Non-Discrimination: Ensure uniform application of the policy to all groups, irrespective of their political orientation or potential controversy, to mitigate accusations of bias.
  3. Transparency: Communicate the policy openly to potential event organizers and participants, fostering clarity and preempting misunderstandings.
  4. Review and Appeals Process: Establish mechanisms for reviewing decisions made under the policy, incorporating input from diverse stakeholders, and providing avenues for appeals.
  5. Legal Compliance: Ensure alignment with relevant laws and regulations, including provisions safeguarding freedom of speech and assembly.
  6. Safety Considerations: Prioritize the safety and well-being of event participants, evaluating potential risks associated with hosting specific groups.


When you offer private event hosting and large party reservations, you must do so for everyone in a non-discriminatory way, according to federal and state laws. If you host an event for one religious group, you generally must host events for all religious groups (if they request). The rules are less strict about political groups, but it’s harder to tell them apart these days. When you host events, you can only restrict what is said if it is obscene, rude, dangerous, or against the basic function of the business. You cannot restrict religious or political speech. You can set limits on use of projections, microphones, and signs, but those limits must be the same for all groups.

Do you have any questions about hosting events in a restaurant, bar, or taproom? Contact us to schedule a consultation with a beverage attorney.

Because we’re attorneys: Disclaimer. Originally posted 05/11/2024.

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