Q. Why is this lesson important?
A. Checking ID’s, over-serving, questionable behavior – all bar owners are concerned about this. Having a basic knowledge of what’s really going on in a bar is always helpful. Staying out of legal trouble was always one of my priorities!
Q. Will I be asked anything about the law or alcohol awareness training during the interview?
A. Probably. First and foremost, if you live in a state or county that requires alcohol awareness training (or the like), it’s a good thing to already have that card in your pocket. You might get asked something about checking ID’s or over-serving people – which is discussed in other lessons of the course.
You’re in the business of serving alcohol. This is a very serious part of the bartender’s job. Actually, it’s why you want to become a bartender – to hang out with nice, crazy people and have fun while making cocktails.
Yes, it’s a lot of fun, but with this fun comes a lot of responsibility. You must know the laws. I won’t go into any great detail here. I’ll touch on what the bar owner is responsible for – and what you, the bartender is responsible for.
I’ll also give you a heads-up on what “Alcohol Awareness training” is all about. Here’s what we’ll go over:
- The Law Regarding Dispensing Alcohol
- The Bar Owner’s Responsibility
- The Bartender’s Responsibility
- Checking ID’s
- Alcohol Awareness Training
The Law Regarding Dispensing Alcohol
Below are some links to websites that you might wish to take a look at. Good stuff here, and every bartender should be fully aware of their own personal responsibility when it comes to dispensing alcohol. It’s probably a good idea to Google your State and “Liquor Laws” to find out more.
- Who’s in Charge: https://www.alcohol.org/laws/
- Who’s Liable: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/dram_shop_rule
- Arizona State Laws Example: https://www.azliquor.gov/restlaw.cfm
The Bar Owner’s Responsibility
The bar owner pays a lot of money for that liquor license. He loses that – it’s over. The buck stops here. It is the bar owner’s responsibility to train his staff when it comes to responsibly serving alcohol.
How does he do this? By requiring “Alcohol Awareness” classes. By conducting in-house classes on the proper procedures needed. By making sure his bar manager is conducting spot checks and further training his employees in proper procedures and state and local laws.
Unfortunately, I have seen some bar owner’s (and bar managers), very lax when it comes to checking ID’s and cutting people off. Avoiding confrontations between customers. Allowing harassment and verbal abuse.
You’re going to find out rather quickly if your new boss takes this stuff seriously. My advice is to always follow the law – even if your boss doesn’t always do this.
The Bartender’s Responsibility
You are the one serving the alcohol. Is this customer overly intoxicated? Is he underage? Is he starting fights? You better stay on top of this stuff.
This is what a bar means when hiring “experienced bartenders only.” They’re not referring to how many drinks you’ve made – what they’re talking about here is how you handle yourself when it comes to, among other things, checking ID’s, being responsible, and protecting the bar’s liquor license.
The bar should have policies in place – and you’ll be made aware of these policies on your very first day of work. Or should be. Please – educate yourself on the finer points of dispensing alcohol by following those three links above.
I go into great detail about ID’s in an upcoming lesson in this section – “Checking ID’s. There’s a lot of information in that lesson, so make sure you don’t skip over it.
The reason I mention it here is to remind you that checking ID’s is such a big part of the bartender’s job that I gave it its own lesson.
Alcohol Awareness Training
First and foremost, Alcohol Awareness Training” is NOT a license to bartend! There is no such thing as a “Bartender’s License” at the time of this writing.
If you’re an experienced bartender or food server, then you’re very well aware of the responsibilities associated with serving alcohol. Fake ID’s and underage drinking, intoxicated bar patrons, drugs – the list goes on and on.
You must be aware of the laws regarding these issues, and many states will help educate and train you in dealing with these everyday occurrences. It’s called “Alcohol Awareness Training.” Or something like that.
So, What Exactly is Alcohol Awareness Training?
Required by many states, this classroom instruction teaches new and experienced bar and restaurant employees and managers how to act responsibly in the dispensing of alcohol.
This training also includes how to recognize alcohol and drug abuse, and help prevent tragedies all too often associated with alcohol. I have taken these classes – and they’re quite good at getting their point across. I’m all for them.
Why Do Bartenders Need to Be Trained in Alcohol Awareness?
Bartenders are not the only employees that need to be trained regarding serving alcohol. Anyone in the food and beverage industry, liquor store clerks, convenience store clerks, retail grocery store outlets, etc., may also be required to get some sort of alcohol awareness training.
This training is not just for the employees actually selling and serving alcohol. Management must also be trained, and many times a bar or restaurant may require additional in-house training. Local laws can be fickle, and it just makes sense to ensure all employees are aware of the laws.
Serving alcohol is serious business. I’ve been in the food and beverage industry for a lot of years and have pretty much seen everything. Here’s a short list of what I’ve witnessed:
- Fake ID’s and Underage Drinking (I’ve seen them all)
- Projectile Vomiting
- Extremely Intoxicated Customers
- Massive Brawls
- Domestic Disputes
- Physical Abuse
- Drunk Bartenders and Servers (And Mangers), on Duty
- Liquor License Suspensions and Fines
- Verbal Abuse
- Drug Dealers and Users
- Seriously Unwanted Advances
I can’t say this enough: You better know your Federal, State, and Local liquor laws. The better you’re trained, the less you have to worry about. Serve responsibly. For sticky situations – don’t hesitate to get management involved.
And then there’s the “Dram Shop Liability” Which I linked to above. Basically, this law states that a bartender, or anyone serving alcohol, can be held liable if a customer leaves the premises and is involved in a drunk driving accident. Not good.
The establishment and bartenders could be fined and sued for huge amounts of money for over-serving someone. It gets even worse if the victim is a minor. An if there is a death involved? Ouch. No one wishes to be involved in anything like this. Know your laws – serve responsibly.
Alcohol Awareness Training is all about protecting you, your employer, and the customer. Face it – some people are simply incapable of determining whether or not they’ve had too much to drink. That’s where you, the professional bartender, comes in.
Anyone that over-drinks can put themselves in great physical danger. Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, stepping out into oncoming traffic, the list goes on.
By identifying risks involved with the over-consumption of alcohol, bartenders can be in a better position to ensure the safety of every one of their customers. And protect their job.
How Long is the Training and What Does it Cost?
Most training programs are around 3 – 5 hours long. Then there is the test to get your certification. Don’t sweat it, as it’s really not that hard. It’s very interesting, and, who knows – you just might learn something new.
The costs for this training is usually less than $50.00. States differ, so go online and do some research on your State. Certification is usually good for 3 years or more. Many bar owners will hire someone to come to the bar and give all employees the class at the same time.
Who is Required to Be Trained?
Not all states require certification. For a list of states that require some sort of alcohol awareness training check out this site on alcohol server and seller training. This is a very informative site that provides information on each states’ current laws regarding certification.
If a state requires this type of training for bartenders, then it will probably include all people in the position of serving alcohol. Servers, managers, bar backs – even a host or hostess.
What Are the Topics Discussed?
States may vary in the topics that they cover. Obviously, each state makes its own laws and may have slight variations. Generally speaking, they all conform to pretty much the same laws. The rest of lesson 3 here is all about alcohol awareness training classes, and the below are the main topics that most alcohol awareness training classes will cover.
Properly Checking ID’s
Valid ID’s are required in order to purchase alcohol. For example, at the time of this writing, the State of Washington accepts these forms of ID:
- State issued Driver’s License or ID card. Includes Canadian Provinces, U. S. Territory’s, and the District of Columbia.
- A paper temporary license if it hasn’t expired and shows a photo, signature, and date of birth. No photo? Not valid.
- Military ID
- Passport from any nation
- Merchant Marine ID
- Washington State Tribal Enrollment Card (no expiration date required).
Again, all States are different. And, many bar owners will enforce even stricter policies – it’s totally up to them. Checking ID’s is serious business, and experienced bartenders are not easily fooled.
Facts About Alcohol
How does alcohol affect people? How do I know if someone is drunk? These are just a couple of the questions you’ll address in this class. Surprisingly, many bartenders are clueless as to whether or not someone is drunk. Or they don’t care.
It’s all about serving responsibly. Is someone acting “weird?” What happens when you mix alcohol with drugs? Will a smaller person get drunk quicker than a large person? This part of the instruction is very interesting, and you’ll learn something new every time you get certified.
The Laws that Affect Bartenders
What are the Federal, State, and Local laws regarding dispensing alcohol? Bartenders need to understand the laws, and do whatever they can to protect themselves – and the house.
You must understand that you’re protecting the house’s liquor license. Those things are expensive, and the state won’t think twice about levying huge fines, suspending the liquor license – or even yanking it.
Bartenders have legal responsibilities. The class will probably provide instruction on documenting incidents, more training on ID’s, and whether or not a sale of alcohol is legal.
Practical Applications of Alcohol Awareness
You might have to participate in “mock” situations that simulate real-world confrontations. Dealing with intoxicated customers, abusive language, drug dealing, etc.
You might be shown videos of real-life confrontations and other situations. Practical application exercises will be peppered through the training session.
This is all about responsibly serving alcohol. Make no mistake – you will, at some time, have to intervene in a situation. Maybe there’s verbal or physical abuse on the part of one of your customers. Most likely, someone is just plain drunk – and needs to be cut off.
If you have been in the bartending business for any length of time, you know that things can quickly spiral out of control. Get out in front of it!
The key here is recognizing possible negative situations and squashing them before they happen. The goal is to provide a great customer experience – for all of your guests.
This brings up the statement, “The customer is always right.” Nope. Not when it comes to serving alcohol. Abiding by the law and protecting your employer’s liquor license comes first.
You will be tested. Don’t worry, as most of these classes are very entertaining and you’ll naturally absorb the content. Once you pass the test, you’ll be given some sort of certificate or card that verifies your attendance. Keep a copy and give one to your Manager.
How Long is the Certification Good For?
In some states, 4 years. Others only 3. Some states grandfather people in. Again, do yourself a solid and find out exactly what is required in your State.
Final Thoughts on Alcohol Awareness Training
Alcohol Awareness Training may or may not be required by your state. Once you are hired, management will let you know what’s required. Don’t stress out about class and/or test as it’s really not that hard.
I have found that, regardless of what type of bar you work in, the two main issues are underage drinking and over-serving. Make sure you read the comprehensive lesson on “Checking ID’s” which is coming up in next.
Finally, I found these classes to be very informative. Liquor laws are changing rapidly these days, and those serving alcohol can be held liable for any number of violations. The last thing you need it to be hauled into court as a witness during a drunk driving or domestic abuse case.
Related Bartending Topics
Will management back me up if I cut someone off? They better. Ultimately, it is the person who served the alcohol that will be held accountable. Be careful, know the law, and never be afraid to refuse service.
What if I see drug use going on? Inform management immediately. Illicit drugs are not allowed in bars and restaurants. If you are aware of drug sales, or use, you may be held liable for things going sideways. Use your common sense.