New alcohol law is taking effect for CA bars and restaurants

By the end of the summer, every bar and restaurant employee in California must have a new certification.

So far, only 33,000 people have been certified, a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of workers who work not only in bars and restaurants but also in wineries, breweries, and distilleries. , breweries, event centers and stadiums – basically any place of business where you can drink. Some in the industry worry about the lack of awareness of the law and the increased burden it could bring to a sector deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Council Bill 1221, or the Responsible Beverage Service Training Act, would require bartenders, bartenders, and their managers at establishments licensed to serve alcohol to undergo through a three- to four-hour training course on the effects of alcohol on the body, the consequences of over-serving, basic alcohol laws, and intervention techniques to deal with drunk customers. The worker must then pass a two-hour book-opening exam.

Businesses are trying to understand the scope of the law and process to get certified as the deadline approaches. The law goes into effect July 1 and 60 days after – before August 31 – the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control will require liquor servers to be duly certified. Any workers hired after that date will have 60 days to complete the certification.

The Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage says it plans to focus on outreach rather than immediately penalizing businesses that don’t comply.

“We are taking an education-first approach to allow the industry to adapt to this legislation. We want to help them achieve compliance,” said John Carr, a department spokesman. “We are very sensitive to the fact that these businesses have experienced many challenges during the pandemic.”

AB 1221 affects approximately 56,000 California establishments that are licensed to customers to purchase and consume alcohol onsite.

Southern California has a large number of businesses that will be required to apply the training — 10,605 in Los Angeles County alone, Carr said. The law defines “alcohol server” as anyone responsible for checking identities, taking customer orders, and pouring or delivering alcoholic beverages.

Although the law was passed in 2017, very few businesses know about it. Its author, former Congressman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), pushed for state-mandated “responsible beverage service training” after a car crash allegedly caused by a single driver Drunk driving killed two UC San Diego medical students and seriously injured three. other.

Enactment of the law was delayed for the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic to ease processes for restaurants and bars that have been battered by lost revenue and closures.

However, the majority of bars and restaurants affected “didn’t even know this law existed,” said Jerry Jolly, a 31-year veteran of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage who was a previous director. when he retired in 2006, said.

And California’s certification process is less streamlined than some other states that require similar training.

The model works like this: Workers must first register with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Bureau and pay a $3 fee to receive a nine-digit ID to use in training and testing . Then the restaurants — or the workers themselves — have to pay a third-party company to train online or in person. After completing the training, workers have 30 days and three attempts to pass the exam with a score of 70% or higher – otherwise, they have to start the process over.

The use of private companies for health and safety certification is not unusual in the food industry, but AB 1221 has created a cottage industry of new companies. specializes in providing training services in California, while promoting larger national services that also expand within the state. Jolly herself is one of those upstarts who, after retiring to start a training company, Jerry R Jolly & Associates, was spurred on by the passage of the law.

To date, the California Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage has certified 45 third-party training providers, with at least three providing training in Spanish. Carr said six more Spanish-language programs and one Chinese-language program are pending approval. Training courses vary in price: Online courses can range from $6 to $40 per person, while group face-to-face sessions can be more expensive.

Victoria Brown, Fort Worth’s chief operating officer, said Comedy Seller Server, one of the certified third-party training providers, has been bombarded with questions about which employees need it. trained and how to navigate the state portal.

“At first it was like, ‘Oh my, I don’t get it,’” Brown said. “But now it’s testing time, things are going more smoothly, although we still have a lot of people with a lot of questions.”

Some beverage owners aren’t afraid to express their feelings about the new certification.

Eugene Lee, general manager of Big Bar & Alcove in Los Feliz, began reviewing the shows this week. Lee said he feels the training and testing requirements are “expensive for a lot of doctors.”

“The process was so messy and unclear that an assistant manager at the bar accidentally took a test for another state,” he said. Lee said he would like the training to be streamlined and structured similarly to the food safety certification programs needed for some food handlers.

“It’s easy to perfect the process,” Lee said in a text message. “It doesn’t seem very clear.”

The Big Bar doesn’t cover the cost of training, which means that Selene Martinez, the assistant manager, wasted about $10 on training and false testing, for a certification that ended up useless in California.

“Fortunately, this happened to me instead of one of our many employees having to take this test because it was so much time and money that would be wasted,” Martinez said.

Lesley Butler, an instructor at Cal Poly Pomona that teaches food and beverage management, says the training is an important step.

“I know that restaurant operators are probably shaking their heads, like, ‘Can we stop taking everything? “” Butler said. “But I see this as an opportunity….Determine when people were under-served, or over-served, or whether they entered the restaurant drunk – adding that a higher level of education is helpful.”

At Death & Co., the Gin & Luck hotel group’s sole California bar, there is support for the new training requirement, said the group’s chief operating officer, Michael Shain.

Previous Arts District bars had no formal training or rules about over-serving, although new hires received instructions to watch for signs of over-serving such as language loose body. They also observe how many drinks are served to a person or group in a short period of time and try to find out if a customer has just arrived from a bar or other location that might have been served. alcohol or not.

However, Shain said, employees can always use more guides. After about 30 employees in Los Angeles completed the training required by California, the company is thinking of adding similar processes to its other outposts — in New York City and Denver, with new outposts. Upcoming bars in Washington and Portland, Maine, said Shain.

Bar plans to meet requirements involve allocating time for employees to attend training while being paid hourly.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be forced to do something, but this is something we’re at least welcoming with open arms,” ​​Shain said.

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2022-06-09/california-responsible-beverage-service-training-act New alcohol law is taking effect for CA bars and restaurants

Edmund DeMarche

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