Businesses licensed to serve alcohol should be preparing for their upcoming alcohol server training and certification requirements, based on the Responsible Beverage Service Training Program Act created in 2017 with the passage of AB 1221. Under this law, alcohol servers, as defined, must successfully complete a Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) Training Program offered or authorized by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). Originally slated to take effect July 1, 2021, the Responsible Beverage Service Training Program Act was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic (AB 82) and will now take effect on July 1, 2022.
Businesses with an ABC on-premise license (granting the privilege to serve alcoholic beverages to consumers for on-site consumption) will need to be sure their alcohol servers and anyone who manages or supervises alcohol servers are trained and certified.
The RBS Training Program is designed to cover several subjects, including but not limited to, the social impact of alcohol, the impact of alcohol on the body, and laws and regulations related to driving under the influence.
Note: RBS training is distinct from ABC’s Licensee Education and Alcohol and Drugs (LEAD) program, which is a free voluntary prevention and education program for off-sale licensees and their employees. The ABC LEAD program doesn’t qualify as an ABC-approved RBS Training.
An “alcohol server” is defined as any person who serves alcoholic beverages for consumption, or who manages or supervises a person who serves alcoholic beverages for consumption, on premises licensed to serve alcoholic beverages. This includes anyone responsible for checking identifications, taking customer orders, and pouring or delivering alcoholic beverages.
A person “manages or supervises” an alcohol server if they:
- Directly hire alcohol servers;
- Oversee alcohol servers at an ABC licensed premises; or
- Train alcohol servers how to perform the service of alcohol for consumption at an ABC on-premises licensee, including but not limited to, when to check identification or when to refuse service to a patron.
To be certified, servers and their managers/supervisors must pass an online ABC administered RBS exam. Although the law takes effect on July 1, the deadline for certification for existing employees is August 31, 2022. New hires must pass the exam and be certified within 60 calendar days from the first date of employment. According to the ABC’s Frequently Asked Questions resource, certifications are valid for three years and must be renewed prior to expiration to remain valid.
For the training and certification, each server must register individually with the ABC as a server on the RBS Portal. After taking the RBS training from an approved RBS training provider, the server then must return to the RBS Portal and take the ABC’s alcohol server certification exam.
The Responsible Beverage Service Training Program Act doesn’t specifically require that current employees be paid for the training and certification; however, in the Licensee FAQs, the ABC references California wage and hour laws, and directs employers to the Labor and Workforce Agency and Labor Commissioner’s Office websites and recommends consultation with legal counsel.
Records of certifications must be retained in the event the ABC requests inspection.