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Mixed Reaction to New Alcohol Server Certification From CA Bars and Restaurants

800,000 to 1 million California servers may be affected by this

By Evan Symon, June 6, 2022 3:48 pm

Sweeping changes to rules and certification for alcohol servers and managers at establishments that sell alcohol are to be made mandatory in only  few weeks, possibly creating another employment hole at bars and restaurants that sell alcohol.

In 2017, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1221, a bill that requires all servers of alcohol and their managers to attend Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training, which covers issues such as how over-serving alcohol to customers can lead to community dangers and how to properly comply with local serving laws. An exam would then also need to be passed through the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). After July 1st, establishments would no longer be allowed to use alcohol servers without certification, with all servers required to receive certification by August 31st, essentially giving them a 60-day window.

If businesses don’t comply, AB 1221 states that “the bill would provide that a violation of these provisions shall not be grounds for any criminal action, pursuant to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, against a licensee or an employee of a licensee.”

Originally set to begin in July 2021, the 2020 passed Assembly Bill 82 pushed mandatory certification back a year.

While 58,000 have already accessed RBS training online so far, an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Californians may be affected by this, meaning that a scramble through summer will likely occur, especially as many businesses are still struggling to bring enough new employees on.

New server certification in CA

“The training can be done online and there are nearly 50 approved training providers and that number is expected to grow,” noted ABC spokesperson John Carr. “New hires that meet the criteria would be required to complete the certification within 60 days of their first day on the job. As of June 4th, 58,000 people have accessed the RBS portal as part of the certification process. That number is expected to grow as the summer continues.”

However, many in the industry have mixed feelings on the upcoming mandatory RBS certification. Some note that the training is relatively easy and is for a crucial reason – safety.

“We have servers that have 10-15 customers, all drinking, and they need to keep track on how many they are drinking so they know when to tell to cut them off,” explained Miguel Esposito, a brewhouse co-manager in San Diego, to the Globe on Monday. “We can’t have people driving while drunk or being inebriated enough to commit acts of violence out there. The training can help.”

“Plus, the test is super easy. Some of my bartenders were wondering if this meant like a big SAT type test, but in reality it’s like a few hours to go through the training, then a few hours for the test which, by the way, you’re allowed to use your notes for and use the materials for. You’d have to be a complete idiot to manage to fail this.”

However, despite claims of how easy the course and test are, others are worried that some servers may not pass or do not want to do the training at all and only further hurt the current employment crunch.

“I’m still 2-3 servers where I should be,” said Veronica, a nightclub manager in Los Angeles, in a Globe interview. “And I’m worried about this certification. It’s not so much that they can pass it. Some have said that they don’t want to do it and would rather switch jobs. You see, that’s the thing. A lot of servers see this as insulting and would rather change jobs than sit through it. There was an applicant who applied to my club as well as a few bars down the road who had 10 years bartending experience out of state, so they knew how to handle everything. When we told them about the upcoming certification, they were upset. We tried to tell them that states like Nevada had certification like this too, but they were not having it. So the state cost us at least one good employee. We don’t know how many will leave either, especially if some don’t pass in time.”

RBS certification will be needed by law for all alcohol servers in the state by this summer.

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