Your Actions Matter

Your responsibility as a bartender to prevent underage drinking

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Education
Training guides for bar staff and servers.
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Certifications
Know which certifications you need to get hired.
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Legal
Learn the laws that can affect your career.
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About Your Actions Matter

Your Action Matters is a reference site built to help bartenders advance and grow their careers.

We provide information to bartenders on safe service certifications and the legal issues that can affect them when working in the bar and restaurant industry.

We also provide a reference page of educational resources that bartenders and other hospitality service industry professionals can use to improve their knowledge and skills.

Explore Your Actions Matter to learn more.

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Training/Certification

Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) refers to the series of practices an establishment that sells alcohol takes to reduce the risks related to excessive intoxication and/or underage drinking. The aim is to hold alcoholic beverage sellers accountable and educate them on how to responsibly serve alcohol. Alcoholic Beverage Authorities by State

Responsible Beverage Service Training Programs by State

AlabamaIndianaNebraskaRhode Island
AlaskaIowaNevadaSouth Carolina
ArizonaKansasNew HampshireSouth Dakota
ArksanasKentuckyNew Jersey*Tennessee
CaliforniaLouisianaNew MexicoTexas
ColoradoMaineNew YorkUtah
Connecticut*MarylandNorth CarolinaVermont
DelawareMassachusetts*North DakotaVirginia
Florida*MichiganOhioWashington
Georgia*MinnesotaOklahomaWest Virginia*
Hawaii –
Maui County, Honolulu County
Mississippi*OregonWisconsin
IdahoMissouriPennsylvaniaWyoming
IllinoisMontana

*Nationally Recognized Responsible Beverage Training Programs

Bartender Resources

These resources are for bartenders, servers, and restaurant managers who are looking to grow their careers.

The resources are compiled from the Backbar Academy, which is a blog and resource hub created by Backbar.

Backbar is a bar inventory and beverage management software company that provides a free bar inventory app for restaurants and bars. 

Bartender Training Guide

This guide outlines the basic skills and knowledge that bartenders need to be successful behind the bar. Reading this guide will help you learn tips on how to become a better bartender.

Basic Wine Knowledge Training

This guide to wine training is a crash course in Wine 101 for servers and bartenders who want to increase their wine knowledge.  Learn the basics of wine terms, how to properly taste wine and use wine descriptors, and learn about wine and food pairing.

Liquor and Drink Cost Calculator Spreadsheet

The drink pricing and cost calculator is a pre-built spreadsheet template to help calculate the prices of wines, beers and spirits. The spreadsheet automatically calculates the cost per ounce for each item so users can find the right price to hit profit margins goals set for their beverage program. 

Bar Inventory Spreadsheet Template

The bar inventory spreadsheet template is a pre-built inventory spreadsheet that is free for download. It helps bars and restaurants maintain proper inventory control for better inventory management. A strong inventory strategy will help lower liquor costs and provide insight into strengths and weaknesses of a beverage program.

Bar Opening and Closing Duties Checklist

A pre-built checklist that bars and restaurants can use to help manage and instruct bar staff on the opening and closing tasks needed to run a bar. This checklist will help managers oversee bar staff to make sure the bar is cleaned and set up properly. 

Legal

Alcohol is the number one consumed substance among youth in America. Long a pervasive problem, alcohol abuse by minors is often linked to violence, poor academic performance, health problems, and even death. The negative effects of underage drinking are not just limited to minors, but can also have devastating implications for their families and communities as a whole. As such, the federal government, in partnership with state and local governments, has enacted a series of laws, policies, and programs that every responsible bartender should be aware of. 

 

Underage Drinking Laws 

Much has been done on a federal level to reduce the prevalence of underage drinking. Under the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, selling alcoholic beverages to those younger than 21 is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This law defines an alcoholic beverage as any wines, beers, or spirits containing 0.5% or more alcohol by volume. 

Penalties for serving alcohol to minors vary by state but all carry a hefty price. For example, in the state of Illinois

  • Furnishing alcohol to minors is illegal with no exceptions
  • Selling, serving, or delivering alcoholic beverages to a minor is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable with maximum fine of $2,500 and a jail sentence of up to one year.
  • A Felony results in a fine up to $25,000 and a minimum one year prison sentence.

Establishments can lose their liquor license if they are found serving alcohol to minors, or even failing to check identification of anyone who appears under 30. An interactive map detailing underage drinking laws for all 50 states can be found here

 

Dram Shop Liability

42 states currently have dram shop laws, in which commercial alcohol providers (both establishments and individuals) can be held liable for the damages and/or injuries caused by their intoxicated or underage patrons. For example, a bar that serves alcohol to a minor who then hurts a third party in an alcohol-related vehicle crash can be held liable by the third party for their injuries. 

While similar to laws on providing alcohol to minors, dram shop liability is distinct in that it only comes into play if the injured individual in question files a lawsuit. As such, commercial alcohol providers can face punishment both from the state and dram shop liability lawsuits.  

Responsible beverage service (RBS) defense

Some states have established responsible beverage service (RBS) affirmative defenses. In these states (North Dakota, Michigan, North Carolina, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) a commercial alcohol provider can avoid liability if it can prove that it was following RBS practices at the time alcohol was served to a minor.

 

Responsible Beverage Service Training Policies

As of January 2016, 37 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some kind of RBS training. 25 states have a voluntary RBS law, 18 states and the District of Columbia enforce a mandatory RBS law, and some have a mix of both. In mandatory states, you may lose your liquor license if you do not have this certification. Some examples of RBS practices include: 

  • Staying away from marketing strategies encouraging intoxication (happy hours, discounts, other promotions)
  • Ensuring all patrons are of age 
  • Making sure that patrons are not too intoxicated

An all-inclusive RBS training program should include both server/seller training and manager training. Information on training courses/education for some states can be found here.

 

Other Resources