Posted on: April 11, 2024

Navigating the Legal Landscape: What Every New Bartender Should Know

Navigating the Legal Landscape: What Every New Bartender Should Know

Whether you're drawn to the excitement of a bustling night or enjoy the thrill of crafting drinks, bartending can be a fun and lucrative profession. However, it's important to remember that serving alcohol comes with serious legal and ethical responsibilities.

From verifying the legal drinking age to identifying an intoxicated guest, this blog will cover the basic guidelines to create a safe and compliant atmosphere at your establishment.

What is the National Drinking Age?

The national drinking age in the United States is 21 years old. This is established by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which requires all states to set their minimum purchasing age for alcoholic beverages to 21. If a state does not comply, they risk losing a portion of their federal highway funding.

That being said, it's important to remember that this is the national minimum. Individual states can choose to set their own legal drinking age as high as 21, but not lower. This means that the legal drinking age could potentially be higher than 21 in some states.

It's always best to check with the specific laws of your county and state before working as a bartender to ensure you understand the legal drinking age and any other relevant alcohol regulations.

How to Check IDs

Verifying IDs to ensure customers are of legal drinking age is crucial for any bartender. Here are some steps you can take:

Check the Date of Birth

Ensure the date of birth on the ID indicates the patron is at least 21 years old (or the legal drinking age in your area). Be aware of legal drinking age changes in other states and countries if the ID is from a different location.

Inspect the ID Carefully

Look for official government-issued IDs with the patron's photo, name, date of birth, and issuing authority. Check for holograms, watermarks, and other security features specific to the type of ID. Ensure the ID is not expired or damaged.

Compare the Photo to the Person

Ask the patron to remove any hats, sunglasses, or other obstructions that might obscure their face. Look for similarities in facial features, hair color, and general appearance between the photo and the person in front of you.

Use Additional Verification Tools

Some states offer ID scanners that can verify the authenticity of IDs. Scanners typically provide a visual or audible signal indicating whether the ID is valid or invalid. However, they are not foolproof and can be fooled by some sophisticated fake IDs. The accuracy of scanners depends on several factors, including the quality of the scanner, the sophistication of the fake ID, and the user's training in identifying valid and invalid IDs.

Preventing Guest Intoxication

Overserving can lead to serious consequences for both the patron and the bartender. Here are some strategies bartenders can employ to prevent it:

Monitor Patrons for Signs of Intoxication

Look for slurred speech, unsteady gait, difficulty focusing, or excessive sweating.

Observe their interactions with other people. Are they becoming belligerent or aggressive? Pay attention to drink consumption. Are they ordering or finishing drinks quickly?

Pace the Service

On that note, avoid serving multiple drinks right after the other. Offer water or non-alcoholic options between alcoholic beverages. Implement a drink limit per person based on local regulations and your own judgment. You can also encourage responsible pacing by setting expectations, like "I'll bring your next drink in 15 minutes."

Communicate Effectively

Politely explain your concerns if you notice signs of intoxication. Offer alternative options, like non-alcoholic drinks or food. Be firm and consistent in enforcing your refusal to serve.

Seek Backup

Don't hesitate to involve security or management if you feel threatened or unable to handle the situation alone. Work as a team with other staff to monitor patrons and ensure everyone's safety.

Remember, preventing overserving is not just about following regulations. It's about creating a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone. By being proactive, vigilant, and communicating effectively, bartenders can play a crucial role in promoting responsible drinking and preventing harm.

Legal Consequences

Serving minors or overserving patrons can lead to a range of legal complications for both the bartender and the establishment. Here's a breakdown:

Serving Minors

In all states, it is a crime to knowingly serve alcohol to a minor. Penalties can range from fines and community service to jail time, depending on the state and severity of the offense. The bartender and the establishment can be sued by the minor or their parents for any damages caused by the consumption of alcohol, including injuries, property damage, or emotional distress. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board can also revoke or suspend the establishment's liquor license for serving minors, which can have severe financial consequences.

Overserving Patrons

Many states have dram shop laws that hold establishments liable for injuries or property damage caused by intoxicated patrons whom they served. This means the bartender and the establishment can be sued by the injured party or their family.

In some cases, the bartender or establishment could face criminal charges if their actions are deemed reckless or grossly negligent, contributing to a serious crime. If an intoxicated patron served by the bartender causes harm to a third party (e.g., a car accident), the bartender and the establishment can also be held liable.

While all of this information can seem slightly overwhelming, knowledge can be your most powerful tool for ensuring compliance. Our comprehensive alcohol safety courses can help empower you to serve responsibly, protect patrons, and build a thriving career.

Head to our website to get started today!