It's in the small print!

Contracts are paperwork, and we all hate paperwork. But, and it's a big but, a contract with a venue is such an important document to any event organiser it cannot be treated so lightly. The contract any organiser signs with a venue will (or should) contain everything that is pertinent to the event and its tenancy within the venue, there really should not be any small print, nor should there be any surprises. However, I still have people asking me for information that is contained within the defining document of their relationship with our venue. That is a very clear indication that they have not read and understood their contract.

I am not a lawyer, but I do have one on hand and available to read and check any contracts that I may be signing on behalf of the venue. There is a cost to this but I would argue that it is a very small cost when compared to finding out, either at the point of or after, something that brings clauses within the contract into play. Some of these clauses may have a financial implication, let me give you an example. Should an event damage the ground around our venue then there is an expectation that the organiser makes good that damage at their own cost or via their own insurer.

That's a reasonable request. But it's not always understood and that means the signatory to the contract hasn't read and understood the terms to which they are agreeing and that's quite a risk. Any contract you sign will have some form of penalty clauses for non compliance with certain aspects, they are a natural part of any contractural arrangement and it's well worth understanding what they are and why they may come into force. Once you know what they are it may save a lot of surprises and arguments after the fact and it stops the venue immediately thinking “what else haven't they read?”

It may be that the organiser has assumed something is included or accounted for within the contract, but assumptions are very dangerous things to make. A good understanding of the contract will identify any parts that need discussion, and we are open to some discussion because we want the event to work for both us and the organiser.

When we discuss and agree a contract this then leads on to creating an event sheet for the event at our venue, it's a ‘what’s needed for this event sheet’ for us to work from. This event sheet comes from the contract and we deliver against what is in the event sheet, such as what areas are in use, what power is needed, tables required, opening times, etc.

If it's not in the sheet, it's unlikely to happen so this is also important to read through and check. We may be able to accommodate additional requirements, however, they may incur a cost because we will not have budgeted for that cost within our quotation to you, or perhaps items ordered late cost more. So, the importance of reading the contract and understanding it cannot be overstated and the importance of checking the event sheet doubly so. Our event sheet gives us the playbook for how your event will happen on the day and it covers everything from space allocated to parking, security, opening times, food orders, etc. Our contract also includes force majure and acts of god, all of which have been agreed to by the signing of the contract. We also list in our contract the power costs, the water costs, all the kit we have on site for hire and the costs for these. When I get asked for instance, after a contract has been signed, ‘how much is a 16amp socket’ I know the person I’m in contact with has not gone through the contract in detail. All venues have their own contracts and many run event sheets, and they all vary, so reading it carefully will stop those moments when you find yourself thinking “Why am I having this conversation?”
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Written by Jason Lunn

Jason is Venue Director of the East of England Arena and Events Centre, running the entire site including hospitality, catering, maintenance of the site and all 3rd party and internal event services.