How Old Do You Have to Be to Be a Bartender?
Working as a bartender can be really lucrative — people love their bartenders and they often show their love with good tips. Regardless how much salary the bar pays you, it will pale in comparison to the cash you make from happy customers. On top of the financial benefit, tending bar is a cool job. You make people in your bar happy, keep them entertained with a little bar banter, and meet people from all walks of life — and instead of an office cubicle, your office is stocked with liquor and beer.
Depending on the state you plan to tend bar in, the age minimum is a little different. In some states, an 18 year old can tend bar, while in other states you have to be 21.
Here’s a quick guide to each state’s minimum age required to become a bartender:
Alabama 21 Illinois 21 Montana 18 Rhode Island 18
Alaska 21 Indiana 21 Nebraska 19 South Carolina 21
Arizona 19 Iowa 18 Nevada 21 South Dakota 21
Arkansas 18 Kansas 21 New Hampshire 18 Tennessee 18
California 21 Kentucky 20 New Jersey 18 Texas 18
Colorado 18 Louisiana 18 New Mexico 19 Uah 21
Connecticut 18 Maine 18 New York 18 Vermont 18
Delaware 21 Maryland 18 North Carolina 21 Virginia 21
DC 21 Massachusetts 18 North Dakota 19 Washington 21
Florida 18 Michigan 18 Ohio 21 Wesst Virginia 18
Georgia 18 Minnesota 18 Oklahoma 21 Wisconsin 18
Hawaii 18 Mississippi 21 Oregon 21 Wyoming 21
Idaho 19 Missouri 18 Pennsylvania 18
Why Is There an Age Restriction on Bartenders?
Because a bartender’s main job is to serve alcohol, their employment is controlled by various state and national organizations. The intent of the age restriction is to make sure that bars are hiring responsible servers who understand the rules behind serving alcohol and to keep minors from standing in behind the bar.
Do I Need Certification to Bartend?
The answer to this question depends, again, on the state where you plan to work. The short answer is “No,” you don’t need certification to tend bar in every state in America. However, since you do need to be certified to work in some areas, your best bet is to look into the laws in your home state.
The following states require certification before you are allowed to tend the bar:
- New Mexico
- District of Columbia
No other state requires a certification or license for bartenders, however the state of Michigan does require that bar managers take certification courses.
Why Certify as a Bartender?
The first reason to get bartender certification is if your state requires it by law before you can serve drinks. The second reason is simple — bartending certification can make it easy to find a job pretty much anywhere in the country. Your job as a bartender will be easier and restaurants and bars more likely to hire you if you complete your bartender certification.
A bartending certification course can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the type of “bartender school” you choose. There are even “bartender colleges” that certify as well as teach the art of tending bar. If you really want to know your stuff before you step behind the bar, going to bartending school will help you remember those complex drink recipes.
Bartending certification and education courses show to your future employers that you got a certain amount of training, and it will look like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t.
Who Teaches Bartender School?
Most bartender training programs have a special staff trained in education and in tending bar — you can learn from their years of experience in the hospitality industry as well as their ability to teach and communicate. Your bartending school should provide lots of hands-on training at an actual bar, with real bar equipment, in a bartending atmosphere.
What is Bartender Certification?
If your state requires Alcohol Server Certification, this essentially means you’re earning your bartender’s license. Though only one state in the country calls the certification a “license” (Wisconsin), this is basically what you’re earning.
To earn your bartender certification, you need to take and pass a previously approved “responsible alcohol service class”. These are available all over the place and at all times of the year, especially in areas where bartenders are required to certify before they can work.
When you take one of these responsible serving classes, you’ll learn about a wide range of responsible alcohol serving topics, from how to properly check an ID, how to spot a fake ID, different stages of intoxication, and the responsibilities and liabilities of the server.
If your state requires all potential alcohol servers to take and pass these responsible alcohol service classes, they’ll most likely use one of four different class types. The main three primary bartender certification classes are called TIPS — Training and Intervention Procedures for Servers, Serv-Safe (run by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation), and Learn to Serve. Outside of these three programs, there’s not much in the world of responsible alcohol classes. Some states have their own certification program, namely Texas and Tennessee. These two states use the same process, known as TABC, to certify and control alcohol sales. All bars and restaurants in these two states require TABC certification before you can set foot inside as an employee. Both of these states allow you to certify with TABC online, which is the “wave of the future” for alcohol class certification.
What is Liquor Liability?
If you’re just starting out as a bartender, you should be familiar with the words “liquor liability” — it means that anyone who operates a retail store or restaurant that sells any kind of alcohol is at high risk for claims made against their restaurant due to liquor issues. Let’s say your bar serves a couple of glasses of wine to a guy who leaves and gets in a terrible car accident — it is possible that your bar holds some liability in this case, and this is why states require restaurant and bar owners to carry liquor liability insurance.
The requirement that bars carry this insurance is the main reason behind requiring employees to get server certification. Bar owners get discounts on their liquor liability insurance when their bartenders and staff are certified to serve alcohol. This is a “win / win” for the government — bars carry liquor liability and their employees are better trained to serve intoxicants.
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