Pour Decisions: Cash Bar vs Open Bar


Planning an event can be complex and demanding, involving numerous logistics, entertainment, and catering decisions. One aspect that significantly affects both the planning process and the overall flow of the event is the choice of cash bar vs open bar. Opting for an open bar simplifies the event in several ways.

Cash Bar vs Open Bar

A cash bar at an event means guests are responsible for purchasing their beverages. This approach can help manage the event’s budget, as the host is not directly covering the cost of each drink consumed. Cash bars are sometimes preferred for large events where budget constraints are a priority. 

With an open bar, guests enjoy unlimited drinks at no direct cost during an event. The host pays for all the beverages upfront, which might be calculated on a per-person basis or through a flat fee that covers unlimited consumption for the event’s duration. Open bars are popular at weddings, corporate events, and other celebrations. This setup enhances the guest experience by removing financial considerations for drinks, allowing guests to freely socialize and enjoy the event without worrying about payment. 

The Downside of Cash Bars

While cash bars might initially seem like a cost-effective option for event hosts, there are several reasons why they might not be the best choice. Here are some key drawbacks to consider:

Slows Down Service

Cash bars often result in longer lines and slower service. Each transaction requires time for payment processing, whether handling cash or making a credit card transaction. This not only slows down service but can also lead to congestion at the bar, diminishing the event’s flow and the attendees’ enjoyment.

Complicates Budgeting for Guests

Guests attending an event with a cash bar must plan how much they’re willing to spend on drinks, which can add an element of financial concern and distraction that detracts from their enjoyment of the event. 

Unfair for Bartenders 

With cash bars, bartenders are dependent on guests’ tips. If guests do not set aside enough money for tips, bartenders are left in an unfair financial situation.

Why Opt for an Open Bar?

Comparing cash bar vs open bar options? See why open bars are the preferred option.

Pricing Transparency

Open bars at events remove the concern of payment for drinks. This setup encourages a more relaxed atmosphere where guests can freely order their favorite beverages without the hassle of transactions or the need to carry cash.

Simplicity of Planning

Opting for an open bar simplifies the planning and budgeting process significantly when compared to a cash bar. With an open bar, the cost is typically determined upfront based on factors such as the number of guests, the duration of the event, and the selection of drinks offered. This arrangement allows event organizers to pay a set fee. This financial setup eliminates the unpredictability and hassle associated with a cash bar, where each transaction must be managed and recorded, often requiring additional equipment and staffing. Consequently, an open bar not only eases the budgeting process but also reduces the logistical complexities, enabling planners to focus more on other aspects of the event.

Reduced Delays 

Open bars contribute to the enjoyment of events by eliminating the need for transactions, which in turn reduces delays and queues at the bar. Bartenders can serve guests more quickly and efficiently without the need to handle cash or process credit card payments for each drink. This setup not only speeds up the service but also minimizes the typical congestion and lines around the bar area. The result is a smoother, more fluid event where the focus remains on enjoying the occasion and the company rather than waiting in line for a beverage. 


Open bars offer unique opportunities for customization. Add a personal touch to your event by featuring signature, seasonal, or themed drinks. Opt for hurricanes and sazeracs for a New Orleans-style event, or mint juleps and daiquiris for a summertime party. 

Control Over Alcohol Quality

By selecting specific brands and types of drinks in advance, hosts can cater to their preferences while maintaining high-quality offerings. Professional bartenders can ensure that cocktails are mixed correctly and that wine and beer are served at the proper temperatures. This also gives bartenders more control of their stock and supplies to prevent shortages of certain products. 

How to Have an Open Bar on a Budget 

Having an open bar event may seem like a financially risky choice due to the upfront costs of providing drinks for guests. However, it can be a more economical decision in the long run. Below is a list of ways to host an open bar while on a budget.

Choose a Limited Menu

Offer a limited selection of drinks to reduce the number of different liquors and ingredients needed.

Select House Brands

Opt for house or generic brands of liquor, which are often substantially cheaper than premium or top-shelf brands. They will still make great cocktails!

Host a Happy Hour

Limit the open bar to a happy hour or cocktail hour at the beginning of the event. This allows guests to enjoy complimentary drinks early on. This also encourages guests to enjoy the celebration portion without worrying about bar services.

Signature Cocktail

Create a limited selection of signature cocktails. This not only adds a personalized touch but also keeps costs down. 

Early Closure

Plan to close the bar early or during meals when people drink less. This can significantly cut down on the alcohol required for the event.

Elysian Events Catering: Bar Catering 

Whether you’re hosting a wedding, corporate event, or anything in between, let Elysian Events Catering bartend your open bar event! Our team will create an event like no other with a wide variety of drink package options. We offer three packages ranging from $25/person to $37/person. All packages include cocktails, beer, wine, mocktails, sodas, water, disposable cups and napkins, and much more. With the purchase of a Standard or Premium package, you have the option to add supplemental bar catering services. Choose from any of the following supplemental drink options:

  • Classic cocktails: negronis, margaritas, old-fashioned, and more!
  • NOLA cocktails: try a classic Pimm’s cup or Vieux Carre for a taste of New Orleans.
  • Bubbles bar: all bubbly cocktails! Think Aperol spritz or French 75.
  • Second line drinks: includes drinks like beer or pre-poured cocktails that can be held during a second line

With Elysian Events Catering, there’s no need to find bartenders. Enjoy your event, and let us handle your bar catering needs! With our flexible and customizable catering options, we make planning seamless. 

Get in Touch 

When comparing cash bar vs open bar options, open bars are the optimal choice. While cash bars might appear budget-friendly at first, they often lead to slower service and add an unnecessary layer of financial planning for guests, which can detract from the overall experience. On the other hand, opting for an open bar simplifies both the planning process and the event itself. It creates a more welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, allowing guests to focus on enjoying the occasion without the hassle of transactions. Get in touch with Elysian Events Catering to start planning your event. We’re here to provide you with help and guidance along the way. Reach out to us today by calling (504) 541-0091 or emailing us at hello@elysianeventscatering.com. 

More Insights & Updates from Elysian