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.
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 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.
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 sure 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 pretty much seen everything. Here’s a short list of what I’ve witnessed:
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. 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. 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 overdrinks 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 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. 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, barbacks – 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. 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, 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 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.
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 great customer service – 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.
How Long is the Certification Good For?
In some states, 4 years. Others only 3. Some states grandfather people in. Again, here is the link showing the different requirements for each 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 it 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. I wrote a very informative article about fake ID’s that you might wish to check out.
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.