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What's the Difference Between On-Premise and On-Premises?

Sorting out the definitions of "on-premise," "on-premises" and "off-premises" and their appropriate usage in the alcohol retail industry.

What's the Difference Between On-Premise and On-Premises?

There seems to be some confusion regarding the use of the terms “on-premise” and “on-premises” when it comes to the retail alcohol industry (and for our purposes the beer industry). This story exists solely to help people understand their correct usage.

The word “premise” according to Merriam-Webster is a “proposition antecedently supposed or proved as a basis of argument or inference,” or “something assumed or taken for granted.” However, in common usage, the word premise is most often associated with books, films or television shows.

A book, film or TV show’s premise can usually be summed up in a single sentence and can be synonymous with a logline. Thus, a narrative premise can be defined as “the initial state of affairs that drives the plot.”

Now what does all this lexicology have to do with selling beer? That’s the rub: it has become commonplace within the beer industry for institutions and professionals, even fellow journalists, to refer to beer that is consumed on location where it is sold such as brewery taprooms, brewpubs, restaurants and bars as “on-premise.”

However, as you can see above, the definition of premise does not match that term when referring to beer consumed at those locations.

The term that people are looking for is “on-premises.”

good people brewing co. taproom
The Good People Brewing Co. taproom in Birmingham, Alabama serves beer "on-premises."

“Premises” is defined, once again by Merriam-Webster, as “a tract of land with the buildings thereon” or “a building or part of a building usually with its appurtenances (such as grounds).”

These definitions apply directly to breweries, restaurants, bars, etc. – beer consumed at those locations are literally “on-premises” as opposed to “on-premise.”

The inaccuracies of people stating beer is being consumed “on-premise” is part of a larger problem of people getting various terms and phrases incorrect as they say or write them, like people mistaking “lose” and “loose” or “there,” “their” and “they’re” or, most heinously, seeing the phrase “sneak peek” butchered into “sneak peak.”

Which brings us back to “on-premise” vs. “on-premises.”

Let me summarize this entire article with this statement:

"On-premises" beer refers to beer consumed at a brewery, restaurant, etc.

"On-premise" beer does not refer to beer consumed at a brewery, restaurant, etc., because it is incorrect usage.

indeed brewing co. facade
As long as a beer is consumed on the grounds of a brewery (such as Indeed Brewing Co. in Minneapolis, Minnesota) it is regarded as an "on-premises" purchase.

Now, you may also have seen or heard the term “off-premises” when referring to the consumption of beer at various venues.

Just like the term “on-premise,” the term “off-premise” also is incorrect usage in the alcohol industry.

Beer that is consumed on the grounds of a brewery, restaurant, bar, etc. is regarded as an “on-premises” purchase.

On the other hand, “off-premises” beer is beer that cannot be consumed at the place where it was purchased – think liquor stores, bars, bottle shops, grocery stores, gas stations, etc.

Hopefully this story helps clear up some of the confusion surrounding one term that is frequently used incorrectly: “on-premise” and one term that is the correct usage: “on-premises.”

store window for liquor store off-premises
Beer purchased at liquor stores, grocery stores, etc. are regarded as "off-premises" purchases because they are consumed at home or elsewhere – not "on-premises" at the establishment itself.

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