It would be great if renting a venue was as simple as paying a fee for the use of a space. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case, and it pays to review your venue contract carefully for clauses that can eat into your budget or otherwise cause you headaches. Here are five things to look for:
Be careful about requirements to use in-house labor. The hourly charges are often significantly higher than what you would otherwise pay and you have no negotiating leverage once you sign the deal. Your production company may be able to give you rough estimates of reasonable charges for planning and negotiating purposes. In particular, rigging labor can get very expensive, though it's important to note that having professional riggers is a crucial safety consideration. Many venues are unwilling to provide cost estimates prior to signing the contract, so there can be significant financial exposure.
Exclusive vendor requirements
In trying to capture more of the profits from events, some venues require that you use a specific vendor for given elements. This happens quite a bit with audiovisual equipment and labor. Like the in-house labor, there is financial exposure because you have no negotiating leverage. Also, you occasionally run into venues that have contracted with audiovisual vendors who are not of sufficient quality to support high-end corporate events. It is often possible to negotiate your way out of these requirements, but, of course, you need to address them before signing the contract.
This one doesn't actually come up very often, but you want to keep an eye out for it, especially if you're doing an event with a live band. The last thing you want is to get caught between venue management, the band's production manager, and your client. If there are restrictions on event volume, you want to be sure that all affected parties are aware of them well in advance of the event.
Mandatory charges for electrical service, Internet, janitorial, security, etc.
This stuff may seem like small potatoes when you're reviewing your contract, but if there are a lot of these charges, they can really add up. Clients often accept these charges as part of the cost of doing business, but it's often the case that the venue will trim these back a bit in the interest of getting you to sign the deal. At any rate, no harm in asking.
Most venues provide adequate support for production including access for large trucks and equipment during load in and load out, back of house space for operating crew and equipment and on-site storage for equipment cases during the event dates. Occasionally, you’ll come across a venue (particularly a new or unconventional space) that hasn’t provided for these considerations. This can have significant additional cost implications. After a site survey, your production company can flag these kinds of items, which can be points of leverage.