What does no cash bar mean?

A no cash bar is a type of bar service provided at events like weddings, corporate functions, and private parties. As the name implies, it means that guests do not pay for drinks at the bar with cash. Instead, the host of the event covers the cost of the drinks. This allows guests to enjoy alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages without having to pay for each drink. The no cash bar offers convenience for guests and allows the host to control the bar expenditures.

What is a Cash Bar?

To fully understand the no cash bar concept, it helps to first look at what a cash bar is. A cash bar means that guests at an event must pay for their own drinks at the bar. The prices are typically similar to what you would expect at a restaurant or regular bar. Guests pay for each drink they order with cash or credit card. The host does not cover the cost of the drinks.

Here are some key points about cash bars:

  • Guests pay per drink they order
  • Prices are set by the bartender/venue
  • Guests pay with cash or credit card
  • The host does not pay for or subsidize the drinks
  • Less expensive option for hosts
  • Less convenient for guests

Cash bars allow the hosts to minimize the bar expenses for the event. Guests may find cash bars less convenient if they do not come prepared with enough cash or do not wish to open bar tabs on their cards.

What is a No Cash Bar?

A no cash bar provides drinks to guests without them having to pay individually for each one. The host of the event pays for the bar expenses instead of passing those costs onto guests.

Here are the main features of no cash bars:

  • Drinks are free for guests
  • The host pays for all drinks ordered
  • Guests do not need cash or credit cards
  • Prices and brands are determined by host
  • More expensive for the host
  • More convenient and enjoyable for guests

By paying for an open bar, the host takes on the cost of all drinks consumed by their guests. This provides a higher level of hospitality and convenience compared to a cash bar.

No Cash Bar vs Open Bar

A no cash bar may sound quite similar to an open bar. However, there are some differences between these two types of bar service:

Drink Options

An open bar means all drinks are included. With a no cash bar, the host may opt to only pay for certain drinks, such as beer and wine but not liquor. The drink inclusion can be customized.

Time Limits

An open bar is generally open for the duration of the event. A no cash bar may only be offered for a limited time, such as during cocktail hour or for the first two hours.

Venue Rules

Some venues prohibit no cash bars and require that all bars be hosted or cash. Open bar is more universally accepted at events and venues.


An open bar is the most expensive bar option because the host pays for unlimited drinks for the duration of the event. A no cash bar allows hosts to put some parameters around the drinks they provide to control costs.

While similar, the main distinction is that a no cash bar offers the host more flexibility and potential cost savings compared to a traditional open bar.

When are No Cash Bars Appropriate?

No cash bars offer a nice middle ground between open bars and cash bars. Here are some instances when a no cash bar may be appropriate:

  • Wedding receptions – Bride and groom can pay for more modest bar service.
  • Corporate parties – Employers can subsidize drinking without paying for top-shelf liquor.
  • Backyard BBQs or graduations – Hosts can provide beer and wine only.
  • Charity events – Provides drinks to guests while controlling costs.

The no cash bar option allows hosts to provide a level of hospitality to their guests while staying within budget. It avoids guests having to pay out of pocket while also avoiding a large bar tab.

No Cash Bar Etiquette

If you are planning an event with a no cash bar, follow these etiquette guidelines:

  • Indicate “no cash bar” on the invitation so guests come prepared.
  • Have a greeter share details upon guest arrival.
  • Offer at least beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Have visually appealing signage at the bar stating “No Cash Bar.”
  • Tip bartenders appropriately rather than asking guests to tip.
  • Thank guests as they leave and bid them farewell.

Properly communicating and executing a no cash bar shows appreciation for guests while sticking to your bar budget.

No Cash Bar Signage

Having visible signage at the bar is imperative so guests understand it is a no cash bar. Here are signage ideas:

General No Cash Bar Sign

A simple, elegantly designed sign that states “No Cash Bar” or “Hosted Bar” helps set expectations. Include a “Thank You” from the hosts.

Details on Offerings

Provide specifics on what is included:

Beer Coors Light, Blue Moon, Angry Orchard
Wine House Cabernet, House Chardonnay
Liquor Absolut Vodka, Tanqueray Gin, Bacardi Rum

Customize for the Event

Make the signage unique to the event, names, date, etc. This makes it clear the no cash bar is tailored for the guests.

Attractive, informational signage avoids confusion and creates a seamless no cash bar experience.

No Cash Bar Pricing

Hosts need to determine drink pricing for a no cash bar since guests are not paying per drink. Here are pricing guidelines:

  • Inquire about drink package pricing from the venue or caterer.
  • Factor in costs of beer, wine, liquor, mixers, sodas, water, garnishes.
  • Estimate number of guests and consumption.
  • Allow for gratuity for the bartenders.
  • Compare pricing of open bar packages.
  • Calculate price per person for a 1-2 hour bar.

Venues may charge around $15-25 per guest for a basic no cash bar. Full open bars often start at $50 per person. Factoring in these pricing considerations allows hosts to set a reasonable no cash bar budget.

No Cash Bar Options

Hosts can customize the no cash bar in many ways:

Limit Offerings

Only pay for beer, wine, and soda instead of full liquor bar.

Set Time Limit

Only host the no cash bar for 1-2 hours.

Drink Tickets

Provide 2-3 drink tickets per guest.

Signature Drinks

Create a special “his and hers” cocktail for the event.


Pay for the non-alcoholic beverages only.

There are many ways to tailor the bar to your budget and priorities. A no cash bar offers this flexibility.

No Cash Bar vs Cash Bar Cost Comparison

One main advantage of a no cash bar is the ability to control costs versus a cash bar. Here is a sample cost breakdown:

Cash Bar Costs

Item Total
Beer – $5 x 100 guests $500
Wine – $7 x 80 guests $560
Liquor – $10 x 50 guests $500
Total Drink Revenue $1,560
Bartender Wages $200
Total Costs $200
Profit $1,360

No Cash Bar Costs

Item Total
Beer – $5 x 100 guests $500
Wine – $7 x 80 guests $560
Liquor – $10 x 50 guests $500
Bartender Wages $200
Total Host Pays $1,760

The no cash bar costs the host $400 more but provides drinks at no cost to their guests.

No Cash Bar FAQs

Some frequently asked questions about no cash bars:

Are no cash bars tacky?

No cash bars are not necessarily tacky. They provide a nice middle ground between open bars and cash bars. Properly communicated, they can be elegant and appreciated.

Can you only serve beer and wine?

Yes, hosts can customize no cash bars to only include beer, wine, soda, etc. Full liquor bars are not required.

Do you need to pay bartenders for a no cash bar?

Yes, it is proper etiquette to pay bartenders their hourly wages and tips rather than relying on guests to tip at a no cash bar.

Can no cash bars work for weddings?

Absolutely. No cash bars are great for weddings to provide bar service that fits the budget. The bride and groom just need to set expectations.

Pros and Cons of No Cash Bars

Here are some key advantages and disadvantages of no cash bars for events:


  • Guests don’t have to pay for drinks
  • More cost effective than open bar
  • Allows hosts to control bar costs
  • Provides convenience for guests
  • Easier than distributing drink tickets


  • More expensive than cash bar
  • Guests may over-consume without paying
  • Need to estimate attendance and consumption
  • May feel improper at certain formal events
  • Less revenue opportunity for venues

The pros of convenience and controlled costs typically outweigh the cons for most hosts and events.

Tips for No Cash Bar Success

Follow these tips to flawlessly execute a no cash bar:

  • Set clear expectations on the invitation
  • Have greeters explain the no cash bar
  • Create signage stating “No Cash Bar”
  • Only serve what fits your budget
  • Stock up – nothing is worse than running out!
  • Use bartender ratios of 1 per 50-75 guests
  • Pay and tip bartenders fairly
  • Thank guests for coming as they leave

Proper planning and communication are key to ensuring your guests enjoy the no cash bar experience.


A no cash bar provides drink options to guests without requiring them to pay out of pocket. While not as fancy as an open bar, it offers a nice compromise that suits many event budgets. Clearly communicating, executing properly, and showing appreciation are critical for hosting a seamless no cash bar. With the right approach, your guests can enjoy cocktail hour without bartering with bartenders or fumbling for cash. So the next time you need to provide libations on a budget, consider going with a no cash bar!

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