My recommendation is to never serve alcohol at a company party. There’s simply too many negatives that can happen – and they override the positives. From companies I’ve worked for to companies I consult with, I’ve personally seen the following:
A 25-year employee left a party, ran into a telephone pole, was convicted of DUI, and subsequently terminated.
Another long-time employee left the party (which took place at the business), and as he was driving out of the parking lot, side-swiped two cars belonging to co-workers. A lawsuit was initiated, and the employee left the company.
Two sexual harassment lawsuits were filed (before I started consulting for the business) stemming from too much booze at the party. (Remember, sexual harassment does not need to be on company premises – if they’re employees in a work situation – like a company party – that’s enough).
Managers can be held personally liable for incidents stemming from the party and need to take every possible precaution if alcohol is served. There’s simply no good reason to serve booze at a company party (I disagree with Mr. Mitchell in one area – I believe that at least 75% of all businesses – at least those I work with – no longer serve alcohol).
One final piece of advice if you consume alcohol at a company party: I’ve never seen a career made as the result of behavior at the party, but I’ve seen plenty of careers ended.