The ABC is hosting industry seminars to roll out proposals for the new training requirements for “Alcohol Servers” based on AB 1221, which the Governor signed into law last year. (See Cal. Business and Professions Code §§25680 – 25686.) The first seminars were last week, and more will follow. We applaud the ABC for paying attention to this requirement at this time -- the deadline is close, and the closer it gets the more difficult it will be to manage the process.
Managing the training for large employers will be an organizational hassle for store and restaurant managers and HR departments. For small employers -- especially local restaurants -- it may be business-threatening unless attention is paid now to the lead time necessary to complete the training. This is the most serious industry-wide training program ever attempted in California.
What’s the deadline and what must be done by the deadline?
All “Alcohol Servers” must complete an ABC accredited training program (estimated to be a 4 to 8-hour training program) and pass an exam (with a score of 70% for servers and managers, and 90% for trainers) by September 1, 2021. This will, we expect, be an issue for many servers and managers who may not take the requirement seriously and will not be eligible to work if they do not score high enough on the test.
Who is affected?
The new state-wide training requirement will apply to an estimated 1,000,000 “Alcohol Servers” in California. The ABC’s new draft regulations define an “Alcohol Server” as any full or part-time employee who:
1) checks identification for the age of a patron – including security guards and bouncers;
2) takes orders for patrons’ alcoholic drinks;
3) delivers alcoholic drinks to patrons for consumption; or
4) pours alcoholic drinks for patrons.
Although the draft regulations do not include bussers or cleaning staff in the definition of an “Alcohol Server,” local jurisdictions (with the authority to require that others involved with alcohol-licensed premises be included in the mandatory training) may add this additional category of staff to those required to have the training. While local additions will probably be publicized by the ABC or by the on-premise trade associations before the effective date of the new requirements, there is no guarantee of anything except confusion as the deadline approaches.
Similarly, though the new state law does not include distributors’ provision of samples to licensees (because the law covers only on-site sales to the public), local jurisdictions may add this additional category.
The training requirement covers all licensees permitted to serve the public including, but not limited to, bars; restaurants; nightclubs; entertainment venues; winery, brewery and distillery tasting rooms; public or private events; and catered private events -- everyone except clerks in grocery, liquor and convenience stores and, if the clerks sell in a premises with on-premise tasting (either in a deli on the premises, or with special tasting permits) they will also be required to complete the training.
What about “One-Day” Events?
Good news – there is limited a statutory exemption for “One-Day” permitted events, like races, concerts and benefits. Those special events must have at least one trained manager present on site during the event to oversee alcohol service, but for now, not all “Servers” will need to have completed the training.
What’s the training about, and what will it cost?
The ABC is developing a final curriculum for server training and is seeking stakeholder (licensee and others operating in the industry – such as the trade associations) input. Training will be available online and in person. While the ABC has until the end of this year to finalize the curriculum, at a minimum it will cover:
1) the social impact of alcohol;
2) the impact of alcohol on the body;
3) intervention techniques to prevent sales to minors and intoxicated patrons;
4) state laws about driving under the influence; and
5) related management policies.
At this time, the ABC estimates that the training will cost $25-30 per person, and the exam will cost $5. Each person will have 3 chances to pass. If they fail three times, they will need to retake the training and start the process all over again. We urge affected stakeholders to become involved in crafting the training programs.
Certification will last for 3 years, and then it must be renewed.
What are the penalties for not having all "Alcohol Servers" trained by September 1, 2021?
Here’s the hammer -- licensees without ALL “Alcohol Servers” on staff trained by September 1, 2021 will likely face a 10-day license suspension, stayed for 2 years. If the ABC finds a second violation within that 2-year period, it will impose the 10-day license suspension. Any additional violations will incur additional 10-day license suspensions.
These violations could affect licensees already on probation for other reasons more severely. At this stage it is too early to anticipate what happens if there is a failure of training because of unforeseen circumstances but we expect there will be enforcement.
We will keep you posted on the ABC’s rollout of the new training requirements and will monitor developments as they occur. As always, we are here to answer questions from our clients about the impacts of this new program and we urge all licensees to contact their trade associations for updates as the roll out gets closer.