Bartending an outdoor party can be a lot of fun, especially if the weather cooperates. But being outdoors also introduces some challenges and logistical issues that you may not expect if you’re used to working behind a traditional bar. If you’re planning to work an outdoor event, this article will give you some great advice for planning ahead to make sure everything goes swimmingly.

Planning Ahead: Things to Ask your Client

Firstly, you want to know what the venue is. Your event will be very different if you’re in a state park 2 miles from the parking lot without running water instead of a client’s backyard with easy access to water and refrigeration.

Here are some great questions to ask which will help you plan ahead for the event:

1. Is there a tent over the bartending area?
If not, you want to wear a hat and bring lots of sunscreen (even if it’s overcast). (Please remember to reapply!) Even if they say yes, plan to bring sunscreen – I once worked a large BBQ in a state park and they forgot to bring the tents. I was in the sun for seven hours. I had some sunscreen with me, still got a burn, but not as bad as it could have been otherwise.

2. Is there running water? Is it potable?
If not, you may want to bring an empty gallon jug and fill it up in the public restrooms or a water spigot to have on hand. You’ll use it for things like sticky hands or dirty bar/table, or possibly to wash away a bothersome bug. Be sure to find out if it is unsafe for drinking and plan accordingly.

3. Have they planned for bug spray or deterrent?
This could be bug spray that a person applies to themself as well as bug spray for bees and flies, or bug lamps around the perimeter of the event. Especially in the evening, bugs can become a large (and very common) nuisance for outdoor events.

Packing for the Event

Now that you know what to expect, here’s what to bring to make sure you are prepared for anything!

Assuming you have been bartending private parties for a while, you will likely have obtained a number of tools and equipment for your party prep arsenal. But there are definitely some items that are especially important for outdoor events.

Working the Party

Outdoor parties have a lot in common with any private event, but there are definitely a few extra things to keep in mind. Here are a couple tips to help you prepare for and deal with the elements!

Wear Sunscreen

I know I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. Wear sunscreen and reapply frequently. It’s worth a layer even on overcast days or if you’re in the shade, as the sun can still reflect and burn you. It’s easy to forget in the fun and rush of a great party, but waking up the next day with a bad sunburn will put you out of commission for days.

Save your Ice

On a hot day, ice can be at a premium since it will be melting very fast and the host may not be able to store enough or may have underestimated the need. If you start a party and see that you may not have enough ice, put the beer in the coolers first, then add ice and cold water. You don’t need a lot of water. The ice will seem to melt faster but the ice bath will keep everything colder longer.

Keep your Coolers Cool

Keep you coolers in the shade. Even though coolers are built for insulation, keeping them as cool as possible can be critical, especially if your ice supply is limited. Do not place a cooler on hot pavement, even if the pavement is shaded – it will still be quite hot and your ice will disappear quickly.

Bug Patrol

Ideally, your host will have planned ahead for bug / pest control. But even if they have, bugs can be a real nuisance. If you are faced with a bothersome bee (or fly), try to pour a small amount of a sweet juice (or a piece of fruit) in a cup and place the cup away from you (and away from the guests).

Do NOT use bug sprays anywhere near the food or beverages while working. They are not safe for consumption and also taste and smell terrible!

Citrus and Sunshine Don’t Mix

If you will be touching fresh lime or lemon juice, it’s extremely important that you wear gloves or wash your hands every time you touch it. Prolonged exposure to citrus juice on the skin along with sunlight can cause a potentially serious chemical burn called “Phytophotodermatitis”, more often called the “Margarita Burn”. If you’re in the sunshine and touching citrus juice, be sure to wash your hands frequently and (better yet) wear gloves. You may not have heard of it, but this burn is nasty!

Hand Sanitizer is your Friend

Always keep a pump hand sanitizer with you, as you will use it more than you think to keep your hands clean during an outdoor fest. It’s a quick and clean way to wash without creating any garbage that you will have to deal with later.

Be Kind to your Feet

Now is not the time to show off your 3” stilettos. Wear shoes that are comfortable and that you are okay with getting dirty or possibly muddy. (After all, you are outside and Mother Nature does what she likes!) They should also be very stable – as you maybe standing on an uneven surface like cobblestone, grass, or gravel.

Be Ready for Anything!

Now that you’re ready for the outside parties, you can have a lot of fun and enjoy the festivities with your client and their guests as well as make money. I LOVE the outdoor party season, it is my favorite time of the year. If you have tips of your own for working outdoor private events, add them in the comments below!

Lisa Freeman

Lisa Freeman has been bartending private parties as a side hustle for 3.5 years, working events from small birthdays to large 350-person weddings. She's also a former accomplished ballroom dance competitor, enjoys martial arts, and is always looking to try new things (hobbies, side hustles, and otherwise!)