Income Artist

How Old Do You Have To Be To Work At A Bar?

Author: jack
Published:February 19, 2024
7 mins 53 secs

If you’re interested in working as a bartender, one of the first questions you’ll need to consider is how old do you have to be to work at a bar.

The minimum age to work as a bartender or to serve alcohol varies from state to state in the United States.

In some states, you can start bartending at 18 years old, while in others, you must be at least 21.

Understanding the age requirements is crucial because they are closely tied to state laws on alcohol consumption and sale.

You might find that even within states, there can be different rules for bartending versus serving, as some places may allow you to serve alcohol at a younger age than you can dispense it as a bartender.

It’s also common for states to require alcohol awareness training as part of the qualifications to work with alcoholic beverages, which is different from obtaining a bartending license.

Before setting your sights on a bartending job, it’s essential to check the specific regulations of your state.

That way, you ensure you’re on the right side of the law and can plan your career steps accordingly.

Working at a bar can be an exciting and dynamic experience, but it all starts with understanding and complying with your local laws.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Work At A Bar?

When you’re considering a job at a bar, one of the first questions you’ll need to answer is how old you have to be.

This age requirement can vary significantly depending on where you live.

Minimum Age Requirements For Serving Alcohol

In the United States, the minimum age to serve alcohol at a bar varies by state, typically ranging from 18 to 21 years.

Some states may allow individuals aged 18 to serve alcohol in certain types of establishments, but you must be 21 to tend bar.

It’s essential to check the specific laws in your state, as they can differ quite a bit.

  • 18 Years: In some states, you can serve alcohol in restaurants at 18 but might not be allowed to work as a bartender until you are 21.
  • 19 Years: A few states set this as the minimum age for serving alcohol in any setting.
  • 21 Years: Generally, this is the age required to tend bar, though in some states, you might be allowed to serve alcohol at a younger age in other roles.

Age Variations By Country Or State

The legal age requirements for serving alcohol are not only state-specific within countries like the USA but also vary internationally.

stanislav ivanitskiy j5SwUbcgeyA unsplash 1
  • Canada: The age requirement ranges from 18 to 19 years, depending on the province.
  • United Kingdom: You can serve alcohol at 18, but someone over 18 must supervise you if you’re under this age.
  • Australia: The age is typically 18 across different states and territories.
See Also:   How Old Do You Have To Be To Work At Build-A-Bear?

Here is a simplified table to illustrate this better:

Country/StateMinimum Age to ServeMinimum Age to Bartend
USA (Varies by state)18-2121
Canada (Varies by province)18-1918-19
United Kingdom16 (supervised), 18 (unsupervised)18

Keep in mind that training and certification, such as responsible service of alcohol training, can be a requirement regardless of age in many regions.

Bar Employment Basics

In the vibrant world of hospitality, understanding the employment basics at a bar is essential for your potential career in this industry.

Positions In A Bar


  • The primary role is to mix and serve drinks to customers.
  • Minimum Age Requirement: Varies by state, typically 18-21 in the U.S.

Bar Back:

  • Assists bartenders by restocking supplies and maintaining cleanliness.
  • Minimum Age Requirement: Usually the same as bartenders, 18-21 depending on the state.

Wait Staff/Servers:

  • Take orders and serve food and beverages to guests.
  • Minimum Age Requirement: Often 18, but can be as young as 16 in some states for servers who do not serve alcohol.

Responsibilities And Job Descriptions


  • Mix, pour, and serve alcoholic beverages.
  • Must check IDs to verify age for alcohol consumption.
  • Keep an accurate tab for customers.

Bar Backs:

  • Restock the bar with liquor, beer, wine, and other supplies.
  • Clean bar area and wash glassware.
  • Support bartenders to ensure smooth operation.


  • Take customer orders and relay them to the kitchen or bar.
  • Bring food and drinks to customers.
  • Handle transactions and tips.

Note: Specific age requirements and responsibilities can vary by state and establishment.

Permits And Certifications

Before you can serve or bartend, it’s crucial to understand that certain permits or certifications may be required, depending on local laws.

This paperwork is often mandatory to ensure you’re well-versed in responsible alcohol service.

Alcohol Serving Certificates

To work at a bar, you may need to obtain an alcohol serving certificate.

helena lopes a4z8GRkVSUM unsplash

This certification, sometimes referred to as ‘Alcohol Awareness’ training, validates that you understand the responsibilities and legal aspects of serving alcohol.

It’s important to note that all 50 states have their own regulations, with many necessitating such a certificate before you pour your first drink.

  • Where to Obtain: Typically, these certificates can be acquired through state-approved training programs, either online or in-person.
  • Validity: Certificates have varying expiration dates, so make sure yours is up-to-date.

Local Regulatory Requirements

The specifics of working in a bar aren’t just about age—you also have to account for local regulatory requirements, which can include special work permits or employer approvals.

  • Work Permits: For individuals under 18, some states may require minors to obtain a work permit before starting a job.
  • Employer-Specific Approvals: Bars may need to secure advance approval for job positions that involve minors, specifying the job’s duties.

Keep in mind, the need and nature of these certifications can differ vastly from one location to another, so it’s essential to check with your local Department of Labor or Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

Health And Safety Training

When you’re looking to work in a bar, a key aspect of your responsibilities will be to maintain a safe and healthy environment for both staff and patrons.

To ensure this, health and safety training is often required, which may include alcohol awareness programs.

  • Alcohol Awareness Training: This prepares you to deal with situations involving serving alcohol responsibly.
  • It is necessary to identify signs of intoxication and understand the laws regarding alcohol service.
  • First Aid and CPR: Knowing how to react in emergency situations such as choking, injuries, or sudden illness is invaluable.
  • Food Handling Safety: If the bar also serves food, you will need to know safe food preparation and handling practices to prevent foodborne illnesses.
See Also:   How Old Do You Have To Be To Work At Ulta?

State-Specific Requirements: Depending on where you are, these programs can vary:

StateTraining Required?
State AYes
State BNo (But Recommended)
State CYes (Mandatory for all staff)

Always check with your state’s regulations to ensure you meet all necessary training requirements.

Some states offer this training through state-approved programs, and you may sometimes take these courses as soon as you start your job.

Remember, this training not only helps you perform your job more effectively but also plays a crucial role in the overall experience and safety of everyone involved.

Make sure to complete all necessary training before you start working behind the bar.

Job Opportunities And Career Paths

Working at a bar offers a variety of job opportunities, each requiring different levels of experience and qualifications.

andriyko podilnyk gEV78HNZOqQ unsplash

Here’s what you need to know about the jobs and career paths available in this vibrant industry.


  • Age Requirement: Typically 18-21, depending on state laws
  • Key Responsibilities: Mixing drinks, serving customers, managing bar inventory
  • Experience Needed: Varies; some positions may require prior experience or training

Bar Back:

  • Age Requirement: Usually 18, but can vary
  • Key Responsibilities: Assisting bartenders, restocking supplies, maintaining cleanliness
  • Experience Needed: Entry-level; a good starting point if you’re new to the industry

Bar Manager:

  • Age Requirement: Often 21+
  • Key Responsibilities: Overseeing operations, managing staff, ensuring customer satisfaction
  • Experience Needed: Previous experience in the industry and management skills

For Career Advancement:

  • Consider obtaining certifications like TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) or a mixology certificate.
  • Gain experience through various roles to understand all aspects of bar operations.

Career Path Example:

  1. Start as a Bar Back
  2. Progress to a Bartender
  3. With experience, advance to a Shift Supervisor
  4. Eventually, become a Bar Manager or Owner

Remember, the legal age to serve alcohol varies by location, so always check your local regulations.

If you’re passionate about the bar scene and have the necessary age requirements, you can start with entry-level positions and work your way up to fulfilling career paths in the hospitality industry.

Key Takeaways

When considering a job in bartending, it’s important to know your state’s legal age requirements.

Here is a snapshot to guide you:

  • Age Requirements: Varied by state, the age can be 18 to 21 to legally serve alcohol.
  • Training Programs: Some states may require alcohol awareness training, which is separate from obtaining a bartending license.
  • Workplace Environment: Working as a bartender involves serving in on-premises venues like restaurants and bars.

Legal Age to Bartend by State

  • 18 years old: A minimum in select states provided certain conditions are met.
  • 19 to 20 years old: Some states set these ages as their minimums, often depending on the type of establishment.
  • 21 years old: Commonly the standard age for bartenders to legally serve alcohol in many states.

Your abilities to provide excellent customer service and adhere to regulations will be crucial.

You’ll need to verify age, refuse service to intoxicated customers, and monitor the consumption of alcohol to ensure a safe environment.

As you navigate this career path, it’s also valuable to develop related skills and knowledge pertinent to the hospitality industry.

Remember, each state has its own set of laws, and it’s essential for you to understand local regulations.