What Is a Bartending License?

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A bartending license is simply a certification proving that an individual adequately understands their state or local municipalities’s laws regarding the selling or serving of alcohol.

Think of it as a diploma that proves to the state or your employer that you understand the intricacies of serving customers alcohol from behind a bar. This includes things such as checking IDs, when to cut someone off who has had one too many to drink, dealing with aggressive customers, and more.

Are you required to have a bartending license?

The short answer: it depends.

First and foremost, you need to find out if the state you live in requires a bartending license. Different states have different laws, and it is necessary to do a little research.

For example, some states, like Colorado, Michigan, and Kansas, don’t have any requirements to get started serving alcohol.

Other states, like California, Texas, and Pennsylvania though, require every individual who wishes to serve alcohol to become officially certified with a bartending license by a state-approved provider.

Luckily, you don’t have to go at it alone as we are here to help you along the way. Simply check your state’s bartending license requirements using the guide here, and you’ll have your answer in no time at all.

Tip: Although not every state requires bartenders to be licensed, obtaining a license can prove to an employer that you are dedicated to advancing your career and give you a leg up on the competition. Not only that, but a bartending license can also limit any legal liability you may face. It is for these reasons that we highly suggest to every current or aspiring bartender to become licensed regardless of whether it is required or not.

How to get a bartending license

Each and every state/municipality has different rules and regulations when it comes to becoming a certified bartender.

Some allow for simple online training, whereas others require students to attend in-person classes. Again, we suggest using our guide here to choose your state and learn exactly what you need to do to receive a bartending license.

Can you get a bartending license online?

Yes! Almost every state in the United States allows individuals to receive a bartending license from the comfort of their own home.

Just be careful to confirm that the licensing company is approved by the state or municipality governing board. But don’t worry. As long as you follow the directions that we provide for your given state, you will be sure to be in the right place.

How long does it take to get a bartending license?

Don’t let the thought of having to take a course dissuade you from becoming a bartender. Most courses take less than a day to complete, with most only taking 2 – 3 hours. Ultimately though, it depends on your state’s requirements to determine the length of the bartending course.

For example, a TABC certification in Texas requires two hours to complete, whereas courses for the states of Michigan, Florida, and Illinois take less than three hours.

How much does a bartending license cost?

If your state/municipality requires you to receive a bartending license, the cost most likely will run around $10 – 20.

Note: Even if your state or municipality doesn’t require a bartending license, many websites online will try to sell you what we like to call “fake” courses. These courses will often retail for hundreds of dollars and try to trick you into thinking that their course is required.

Bartending school vs bartending license: What’s the difference?

While many states require a bartending license for sellers or servers of alcohol, bartending school on the other hand is never required.

Think of it like this. You are required to have a driver’s license in order to drive in America, but you are by no means required to go to driving school… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth attending.

While the training that is required to receive a bartending license will generally cover information on how to safely sell and serve alcohol, bartending school on the other hand will generally focus on the aspects of drink pouring, bartending etiquette, and recipe creation.

Whether bartending school is worth it or not is a highly contentious subject. In order to decide if it’s for you, we suggest reading our post on whether bartending school is worth it.

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