Big Event Fail: A Missing Permit


Dena Tidwell

Dena Tidwell

When an event manager is tasked with the responsibility of managing an event for 5,000 people, there are many moving parts to ensure the event runs successfully. The director of catering for that event, as you can imagine, has the responsibility of maintaining the food and beverage needs for a group of that size.

With all of these elements in play, the last thing that catering wants to deal with on the day of the event is an incomplete liquor permit. Dena Tidwell, Director of Events & Catering at Ole Red Nashville, tells her story about how she was able to secure the correct permits just in time for a large outdoor gathering when working at a previous employer.

“At the time of my event fail, I was working as the director of catering for my venue. On the day of this particular fail, I was managing my first outdoor event with 5,000 people at a park in Nashville. All of the details for the event had been well planned and prepared for such a large group. I had applied for all the permits that I needed, but at the eleventh hour, the liquor permit was stalled. One hour before the event was scheduled to begin, the city was still ‘deciding’ about the permit.

“After hearing this stressful news, I ran (in heels!) to the office of the Alcohol Beverage Commission Board and basically begged for them to approve the permit. I had the correct beer permit, but they wanted a 501C donation to any charity to be sent before the liquor permit was fully accepted. I quickly called a friend of mine who managed an approved charity and had him send a typed letter on my behalf stating they would accept the donation. Within the next five minutes, my friend’s letter was approved and the permit was finalized. Lucky for me, my client, and the event, all of the permits were squared away before the event began!

“I was open with my client about the permit situation when it arose, and she felt for me. She held my hand — literally held my hand — during this hiccup and the rest of the busy event. It is wonderful when the client is understanding to the requirements of such a large gathering; we both want the same successful outcome, after all. From my event fail, I learned the importance of hiring an attorney if I ever need a permit from the ABC Board. Managing a 5,000-person event with all of its details is chaotic enough, so with the help of an attorney beforehand, this stressful situation could have been prevented. Moving forward, I never made a mistake with the permits I needed before an event ever again!

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