Alcohol Policies

 The sale and service of alcoholic beverages on campus is governed by Federal laws, Wisconsin Statutes, University of Wisconsin System Administrative Codes, and UW-Madison regulations. The following is only a general guide for student organizations, not a complete, exhaustive list of laws, rules, and regulations. Please visit the University's website for University more information on alcohol policies and how they affect students.



Tips on Serving Alcohol at an Event

When deciding whether or not alcohol should be served an event consider: 

  • How will the consumption of alcohol contribute to the event/activity? 
  • Alcoholic beverages should never be the purpose or focus of an event/activity
  • If there is a significant number of underage students present, it may be inappropriate to permit service and consumption of alcohol at the event 
  • Ways alcohol consumption could detract from the event/activity
  • Containing alcohol in an isolated “beer garden” separates “of age” and “underage” 
  • Counters goals of collaboration and networking 
  • Removes opportunities to meet new people, share an interest and have fun together 
  • Could increase the cost of having the event/activity 
  • If alcohol is served, you must also offer non-alcoholic beverages and food, as required by University regulations 
  • Security officers may be required 
  • Funding sources do not include alcohol as an allowable expense, so the cost comes directly from the RSOs budget 

Serving Alcohol On Campus


  • Alcoholic beverages may not be sold on University property by individuals or RSOs 
  • Alcoholic beverages may be sold if in compliance with University and State regulations 
    Note: The following is not an exhaustive list and other resources should be consulted when planning an event where alcohol will be served.
    • The Wisconsin Union and University Housing must handle all alcohol sales for student groups 
    • Sales are defined to include any charge made directly or indirectly for service of alcoholic beverages 
    • All alcoholic beverages must be served by University personnel (staff of the above listed) 
    • Selling or serving alcohol outside Memorial Union, Union South or University Housing facilities requires special permission from an appropriate dean 
    • The University may restrict access to service in many ways (for example, requiring a “beer garden,” which requires extra personnel for checking IDs) 
    • Service at the Wisconsin Union is available through Union catering, but the Union may refuse the privilege of alcohol service to groups 
    • If a significant number of students will be under 21, a “beer garden,” or isolated area where only participants 21 or older will be admitted, is required.
      • IDs will be checked at the entrance and drinks will not be allowed outside the permitted area 
      • All charges involved are to be covered by the RSO including ID checkers, wristbands, bartenders, security officers, etc. 
    • Bar service closes at 12 a.m. or half an hour prior to the event ending or building closing, whichever comes first
    • Bars may close early due to unbecoming behavior 

To get more information about proper procedures for a specific space contact the Campus Event Services Office by email or by calling 262-2511.



Responsibly Managing Parties with Alcohol


Note: some of the following may be required by your governing council (i.e. Interfraternity Council) or departmental sponsor (i.e. School of Pharmacy). 

  • Always be sure to check with appropriate entities to insure you fully understand policies governing your RSO
  • Activities where consumption of alcohol is the purpose, consequence, or reward should not occur. Drinking games and using alcohol as a reward leads to over-consumption because people drink when they win/lose not when they want to. 
  • DO NOT use common containers of beer (i.e. Kegs), unless at a 3rd party vendor. Studies show individual servings slow down consumption. This substitutes the “we have to finish the keg” mentality with the “we can save bottles/cans for next time” mentality
  • DO NOT provide bulk collective homemade drinks (i.e. Wapatui). Participants do not know the alcohol content of their drinks, making responsible drinking nearly impossible 
  • DO NOT consume alcohol at general or executive board meetings, unless everyone is 21 or older. If alcohol is consumed, set a specific start and end time to meetings to reduce liability for incidents that occur after the meeting.
  • DO NOT use alcohol as an incentive for participating in recruitment or as prizes in contests. Liability increases when alcohol is used as an enticement 
  • DO provide non-alcoholic options besides water and if at a 3rd party vendor, less expensive but comparable size. This gives options for non-drinkers and designated drivers and allows drinkers to switch from alcohol to non-alcoholic alternatives
  • DO provide reasonable amounts of food for the size of the group to slow down absorption of alcohol into the blood stream 
  • DO make sure all members can legally attend events at a liquor licensed establishment, by definition a restaurant (less than 50% of sales are from alcohol) or holds a 18+ Center for Visual & Performing Arts license through the City of Madison.