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10 Essential Points to Include in Your Venue Contract

Consider details like damage, noise, and staffing.

By Alesandra Dubin February 23, 2017, 7:00 AM EST

Photo: Taylor McIntyre/BizBash

Seasoned event professionals leave nothing to chance when it comes to securing what may be an event’s most significant foundational detail: the venue. Include these 10 points in a venue contract to ensure seamless execution with no surprises.

1. Are all financial commitments spelled out?
This part may seem the most obvious, but it may also be the most critical. “Make sure you state your deposit and final payment dates [with] payment schedule and amounts,” says SBE director of special events and client relations Derek Besenfelder.

Jes Gordon Proper Fun’s Jes Gordon says contracts should also specify refund policies, administration fees, and cancellation policies. “Many venues have a schedule in which you do not have to pay the remaining balances dependent on the date of the event,” she says. Another tip from Gordon: “An administration fee is not necessarily gratuity,” she says. “This fee should outline if it is distributed to staff.”

2. Are there any revenue guarantees?
Besenfelder advises, “Clearly state the minimum amount that must be spent in food and beverage and any per-person or bar overage clauses.” Gordon adds that contracts should include the minimum number of guests you are required to pay for. “It is important not to overextend yourself on your guest guarantee,” she says. “If negotiable, a lower guarantee allows for you to add guests on later if necessary.”

3. What are the decor restrictions?
Make note of policies on open flames, fireproofing, and hanging decor. “Fireproofing decor is an additional expense that needs to be addressed before contract-signing to avoid an unexpected cost, and it would be unfortunate to be unable to use decor that has already been purchased,” Gordon says.

4. Does the venue have any vendor exclusives?
The contract should specify whether the venue requires specific vendors be used for an event. “Exclusive vendors take away the option to use vendors you are familiar with or fit into your budget—and required vendors can add unexpected costs,” Gordon says.

5. What are the access hours?
Agenc founder and C.E.O. Cara Kleinhaut says the contract should also specify the hours covered under the terms of the rental, and should pinpoint when the host will be able to gain access. “Be sure to get access time and final-out time in writing.” Gordon adds that specifying load-in and load-out times, as well as overtime rates, “will let you know when your vendors can begin to set up and when you have to be broken down by in order to not incur overtime rates. If you need to go into overtime, the rates and times should be clearly outlined.”

6. Does the venue have noise limitations?
Kleinhaut says any noise restrictions that might affect an event should be spelled out in writing. For an outdoor terrace or venue, a contract should note any noise ordinances or restrictions, such as no amplified music after 10 p.m., she says.

7. What is the wheelchair accessibility?
The Americans With Disabilities Act may not cover all venues, Gordon says, so a contract should clarify. “Not all venues are A.D.A. compliant if they are historical,” she says. “This area of the contract [should] list what areas are and are not A.D.A. compliant within the venue.”

8. Which staff members are—or are not—included?
This can include bathroom attendants, security personnel, and the like. “The venue should be properly attended to for the entirety of the event to ensure a quality guest experience,” Gordon says.

9. What are the damage provisions?
While parties on both sides of the contract hope damage never becomes an issue, the possibility is critical to consider—and should be included in the contract. Gordon suggests writing into a contract provisions for what happens if a guest damages property during the event, and spelling out a policy for collecting money to pay for repairs.

10. What assets come included in the price of the venue?
Kleinhaut says a contract must specify what is included in the price—such as a sound system, a lighting system, a DJ rig, HVAC, a kitchen, and catering—so event professionals are clear on what they need to contract separately. “This is one of the most essential questions,” she says, “especially for full-service venues and hotels.”

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