Posted on: August 3, 2023

Do You Need a Bartending License in New York and NYC?

Do You Need a Bartending License in New York and NYC?

Working at a bar or restaurant in New York City can be pretty lucrative. After all, it’s the city that never sleeps. If you’re interested in becoming a bartender, you might be wondering what exactly is required to get you hired.

This article will cover everything you need to know, including whether or not you need a bartending license to legally work in New York State and, more specifically, New York City.

What is a Bartending License?

A bartending license, also known as an alcohol server or seller certification, is an official document or credential that indicates someone has successfully completed some kind of alcohol education program. It is often a requirement for individuals working in establishments that serve alcohol, such as bars, restaurants, clubs, and catering businesses.

Generally, a bartending license ensures that individuals have received appropriate training and possess the necessary knowledge to handle and serve alcohol responsibly. The license demonstrates that the holder understands the legal obligations and regulations related to alcohol service, such as age restrictions, hours of operation, and responsible serving practices. Obtaining a bartending license is often a critical step for individuals pursuing a career in the hospitality industry and seeking employment in establishments that serve alcohol.

The specific requirements and regulations surrounding bartending licenses can vary depending on the country, state, or even city. In New York, you’ll need what is called an ATAP certificate.

What is ATAP Certification?

When you’re told to get a bartending license in NYC or NYS, what they actually mean is ATAP certification.

The New York State Alcohol Training and Awareness Program (ATAP) is a program designed to provide training and education to individuals involved in the sale and service of alcoholic beverages. The program aims to promote responsible alcohol service, prevent alcohol-related incidents, and ensure compliance with state laws and regulations. The ATAP is administered by the New York State Liquor Authority (NYSLA) and is mandatory for certain individuals involved in the sale and service of alcohol, including bartenders, servers, and managers. The program covers topics such as identifying fake identification, understanding the legal obligations of alcohol service, and techniques for responsible alcohol service.

Is a Bartending License Required in New York?

Now to the answer to your question. Do you need a bartending license in New York?

The short answer is no, with one major caveat. Even though it’s not required by the state, many businesses and establishments that sell and serve alcohol might require their employees to undergo  ATAP training for several reasons. For one, employees who complete the program learn useful skills such as safe alcohol handling, recognizing signs of intoxication, and how to handle tough alcohol-related situations. Someone might be seen as more hirable by a company if they’ve received ATAP certification because they see these as desirable traits in an employee. Businesses recognize that responsible alcohol service is crucial for maintaining a safe environment, protecting patrons from harm, and reducing liability risks.

The NYSLA will also reduce penalties for businesses if their employees unknowingly break alcohol laws while they hold a valid ATAP certification.

According to NY ABC § 65.6 & 65.7, training can serve as a possible defense if the following conditions are met:

  • The employee involved in the liquor law violation possesses a valid certificate of completion from an NYSLA-approved training program
  • The employee has diligently followed and complied with the training program
  • The liquor license holder has not incurred any violations in the previous five years

In addition, training can potentially lead to a 25% reduction in penalties. To qualify for this reduction, the employee must provide proof of completing the training within 90 days after the penalty is issued. Only New York-certified ATAP providers count for a possible penalty reduction.

Which TIPS Certification Course Do I Need?

There are a few different types of ATAP-certified TIPS courses, depending on the type of business you're in. If you serve alcohol by the drink in open containers for immediate consumption, like in restaurants, bars, or catering venues, the on-premises course is the one for you. It's perfect for front-of-house staff who interact with customers directly.

Now, if you're in a licensed grocery store, liquor store, convenience store, or specialty retail store where you sell sealed containers of alcohol for off-premises consumption, then the off-premises course is what you need. This course is tailored for clerks who handle these types of transactions.

For businesses that sell alcoholic beverages for takeaway and delivery, such as restaurants and liquor stores, there's a specialized course called "Off-premises and Delivery." It covers the specific aspects of ensuring responsible service in these situations.

In addition to these courses, TIPS also offers specialized training for those working in gambling facilities and concession services. So, there's a course to suit the unique needs of different businesses in New York. Remember, these courses are designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary for responsible alcohol service in your specific line of work.

Can You Bartend at 18 in New York?

While the national drinking age is 21, that doesn’t mean you have to be that old to be a bartender in many states. In fact, you only need to be 18 to pour and serve drinks in New York. The same goes for New York City.

How to Become a Bartender in New York

If you’d like to start slinging drinks, you’ll need to follow these general steps.

  1. Make sure you meet the requirements. Remember, you must be at least 18 years old to serve drinks in New York. You also cannot have a felony conviction unless you have a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities.  
  2. Next, you’ll need to enroll in and complete a state-approved alcohol course. TIPS is a New York-approved ATAP provider that's popular with many employers.
  3. Receive a passing grade on your multiple-choice final exam.
  4. After you successfully complete the course, you'll get a certificate of completion. You can print this out immediately after finishing the program to show your future employer and let them know you’re ready to work! You’ll also receive a card for your wallet that should arrive in the mail in 7 to 10 business days. 

Remember that specific requirements and steps might vary depending on the establishment, city regulations, and individual circumstances. Be sure to do your research and comply with the particular guidelines of the company you are interested in working for, and stay informed about any changes to regulations or licensing procedures.

Bartending can be a thrilling and fulfilling job, but to excel in it, you need to grasp the fundamentals and know how to create a welcoming and secure environment for your customers. That's where proper training comes in!

TIPS, with its extensive 40 years of experience, is here to provide you with the knowledge you need. Our alcohol safety training courses cover all the essential regulations and guidelines that directly impact your role as a bartender. By taking our courses, you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of bartending and carving out a successful career in this exciting industry. Get your New York ATAP certification today by enrolling in our online course!