Mandatory Alcohol Server Certification – Enforced Sept. 1

    An important change is on the horizon in California for alcohol sales. Starting on September 1, the state will require all alcohol servers and their managers to undergo mandatory, state-approved training and certification in order to be allowed to serve alcohol to customers on licensed premises.

    Who Needs to Be Trained?
    All alcohol servers and their managers need to be trained under the new legislation. This is defined to include anyone who:

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    • Takes customer alcoholic beverage orders
    • Pours alcoholic beverages for customers
    • Delivers alcoholic beverages to customers
    • Checks customer identification for purposes of alcoholic beverage service or entry to an ABC on-premises licensed establishment
    • Trains, directly hires, or oversees alcohol servers at an ABC licensed premises
      Trains alcohol servers how to perform the service of alcohol for consumption for an ABC on-premises licensee, including but not limited to, when to check identification or when to refuse service to a patron

    The legislation, known as the Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) Training Act, was introduced in 2017 to mitigate alcohol-related harm in California communities. The original deadline for the law to come into effect was extended in 2020 because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry. The extended deadline now gives licensed premises a 60-day compliance window: Training must be completed with a provider approved by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) before August 31.

    How the Training Works
    Training may be conducted online or in person, but it must be conducted by a provider approved by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Training is currently available in English and Spanish, and takes approximately two hours to complete.

    When a server successfully completes the training, the approved training provider alerts the ABC. At that point, the server is able to complete a final exam on the RBS portal. The exam also requires that the server obtain a unique Server ID from the RBS Portal in advance. This costs $3, paid directly to the ABC.

    Training and certification must be renewed every three years.

    Training Topics
    Courses must cover topics such as prevention of alcohol service to minors, identifying the signs of intoxication, and calculating the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of customers based on their sex, weight, and number of drinks consumed. The ABC has only approved providers that meet strict requirements for presentation of this course content.

    Proof of Training
    Unlike many other certifications, there are no physical or downloadable certificates issued to certified servers. Instead, the ABC issues a certificate number to alcohol servers who have completed the exam; the certificate number is valid for three years. Licensees will be able to verify that their servers are certified via a feature being implemented on the RBS Portal.

    Enforcing the Legislation
    Anyone who owns or operates a licensed premises needs to ensure all employees are trained appropriately. Beginning on September 1, the legislation will be enforced by the department and fines may be issued for non-compliance. If they haven’t already done so, businesses offering on-premises alcohol service are advised to begin signing up employees now to ensure compliance and avoid fines.

    Danielle Cullen is President of Userve, a trusted leader of online food and hospitality training across the U.S. Userve has a strong focus on compliance training, ensuring that food and hospitality businesses meet all federal and state requirements for employee education—thus protecting themselves, their employees, and their customers.

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