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Retail Sales: Beverage Service Training and Related Practices

Laws specifying requirements or incentives for retail alcohol outlets to participate in server training programs (often referred to as Responsible Beverage Service).

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Expander Policy Description

(Period Covered: 1/1/2003 through 1/1/2015)

This policy topic covers laws specifying requirements or incentives for retail alcohol outlets to participate in server training programs (often referred to as Responsible Beverage Service).  

Beverage Service Training and Related Practices policies establish requirements or incentives for retail alcohol outlets to participate in programs (often referred to as "Responsible Beverage Service" or "server training" programs) to: (1) develop and implement policies and procedures in retail alcohol outlets for preventing alcohol sales and service to minors and intoxicated persons and (2) train licensees, managers, and servers/sellers to implement the policies and procedures effectively.  Programs in some States also have the broader objective of encouraging servers to promote responsible drinking by their patrons, with an emphasis on drivers and pregnant women. Server/seller training focuses on serving and selling procedures, signs of intoxication, methods for checking age identification, and intervention techniques.  Manager training includes the server/seller training, as well as policy and procedures development and staff supervision.

APIS designates training programs as mandatory or voluntary.  A program is considered to be mandatory if State provisions require at least one specified category of individual (e.g., servers/sellers, managers, or licensees) to attend training.

The States that have established voluntary programs usually, but not always, provide incentives for retailers to participate in Beverage Service Training, but do not impose penalties for those who decline involvement.  Incentives vary by State and include:  (1) a defense in dram shop liability lawsuits (cases in which a third party sues the retailer for damages resulting from the retailer providing alcohol to a minor or intoxicated person); (2) discounts in dram shop liability insurance; (3) mitigation of fines or other administrative penalties for sales to minors or sales to intoxicated persons; and (4) protection against license revocation for sales to minors or sales to intoxicated persons.

States may have both types of programs.  For example, a State may mandate training for new licenses and offer voluntary programs for existing licensees.  Alternatively, a State may have a mandatory program and offer a more intensive, voluntary program that provides additional benefits for licensees choosing to participate in both.

Expander Explanatory Notes and Limitations for Beverage Service Training and Related Practices

Explanatory Notes and Limitations Specifically Applicable to Beverage Service Training and Related Practices

  1. APIS examines only the specific Beverage Service Training and Related Practices statutes and regulations in each State. Other legal provisions may impose additional restrictions on serving/selling practices (e.g., bans on happy hours; keg registration; minimum age requirements for servers and sellers of alcohol, and more).
  2. APIS examines only legal provisions that mandate Beverage Service Training and Related Practices programs or provide incentives for establishments to provide Beverage Service Training and Related Practices programs. Programs may exist independently of these legal provisions.
  3. The type of Beverage Service Training and Related Practices that licensees may obtain in voluntary States is broadly defined. In some States, courses and curricula are State specified and regulated; in others, Beverage Service Training and Related Practices programs may be obtained from training programs not sponsored by the State.
  4. Some Beverage Service Training and Related Practices statutes and regulations have different effective dates for various provisions. For example, the date for implementing training programs may be a year earlier than the deadline for servers to be trained. If significant terms of a State's policy become effective on one date, even though full implementation or enforcement is not effective until a later date, the earlier date is displayed in the comparison tables. In such cases, a Row Note is included to indicate the date when the program will be fully implemented and enforceable.
  5. Some States require training for licensees who have violated the law. This analysis does not include this form of mandatory training.
  6. Some States offer both mandatory and voluntary programs. These may apply to differing types of establishments, or the voluntary program may provide additional benefits to those choosing to participate in both. The existence of both types of programs in some States should be noted when comparing program components across States.
  7. Some States provide for after-the-fact participation in Beverage Service Training and Related Practices programs as a condition for reduced penalties associated with a violation of service or sales to minors and/or intoxicated persons. Our analysis does not address these types of Beverage Service Training and Related Practices provisions.
  8. This analysis does not include some variables that may be important to evaluating the effectiveness of Beverage Service Training and Related Practices programs. These include administrative structure, enforcement, training program requirements, and penalties for violations or repeat violations.
  9. This analysis does not address server training provisions applicable only to caterers and catering facilities, special events, or tastings of beer, wine, or distilled spirits.

Explanatory Notes and Limitations Applicable to All APIS Policy Topics 

  1. State law may permit local jurisdictions to impose requirements in addition to those mandated by State law. Alternatively, State law may prohibit local legislation on this topic, thereby preempting local powers. For more information on the preemption doctrine, see the About Alcohol Policy page. APIS does not document policies established by local governments. 
  2. In addition to statutes and regulations, judicial decisions (case law) also may affect alcohol-related policies. APIS does not review case law except to determine whether judicial decisions have invalidated statutes or regulations that would otherwise affect the data presented in the comparison tables. 
  3. APIS reviews published administrative regulations. However, administrative decisions or directives that are not included in a State's published regulatory codes may have an impact on implementation. This possibility has not been addressed by the APIS research. 
  4. Statutes and regulations cited in tables on this policy topic may have been amended or repealed after the specific date or time period specified by the site user's search criteria. 
  5. If a conflict exists between a statute and a regulation addressing the same legal issue, APIS coding relies on the statute. 
  6. A comprehensive understanding of the data presented in the comparison tables for this policy topic requires examination of the applicable Row Notes and Jurisdiction Notes, which can be accessed from the body of the table via links in the Jurisdiction column. 


Expander Federal Law for Beverage Service Training and Related Practices

(Policies in effect on: 1/1/2015)

APIS research identified no relevant, current Federal statutes or regulations pertaining to Beverage Service Training and Related Practices.

Previously, Federal incentive grants were available to States that, among other possible qualifying activities, carried out programs for training point of sale personnel concerning the clinical effects of alcohol, methods of preventing second-party sales of alcohol, recognizing signs of intoxication, methods to prevent underage drinking, and Federal, State, and local laws relevant to such personnel. See former 23 U.S.C. § 410 and former 23 C.F.R. § 1313.6.



United States Code,
Title 23 - HIGHWAYS
§ 410. Alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures
(a) General Authority.—
(1) Authority to make grants.—Subject to the requirements of this section, the Secretary shall make grants to States that adopt and implement effective programs to reduce traffic safety problems resulting from individuals driving while under the influence of alcohol. Such grants may only be used by recipient States to implement and enforce such programs.
(2) Maintenance of effort.—No grant may be made to a State under this subsection in any fiscal year unless the State enters into such agreements with the Secretary as the Secretary may require to ensure that the State will maintain its aggregate expenditures from all other sources for alcohol traffic safety programs at or above the average level of such expenditures in its 2 fiscal years preceding the date of enactment of the SAFETEA–LU.
* * *
(b) Eligibility Requirements.—To be eligible for a grant under subsection (a), a State shall—
(1) have an alcohol related fatality rate of 0.5 or less per 100,000,000 vehicle miles traveled as of the date of the grant, as determined by the Secretary using the most recent Fatality Analysis Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; or
(2)(A) for fiscal year 2006 by carrying out 3 of the programs and activities under subsection (c);
(B) for fiscal year 2007 by carrying out 4 of the programs and activities under subsection (c); or
(C) for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012 by carrying out 5 of the programs and activities under subsection (c).
(c) State Programs and Activities.—The programs and activities referred to in subsection (b) are the following:
* * *
(6) Underage drinking program.—An effective strategy, as determined by the Secretary, for preventing operators of motor vehicles under age 21 from obtaining alcoholic beverages and for preventing persons from making alcoholic beverages available to individuals under age 21. Such a strategy may include—
(A) the issuance of tamper-resistant drivers’ licenses to individuals under age 21 that are easily distinguishable in appearance from drivers’ licenses issued to individuals age 21 or older; and
(B) a program provided by a nonprofit organization for training point of sale personnel concerning, at a minimum—
(i) the clinical effects of alcohol;
(ii) methods of preventing second party sales of alcohol;
(iii) recognizing signs of intoxication;
(iv) methods to prevent underage drinking; and
(v) Federal, State, and local laws that are relevant to such personnel; and
(C) having a law in effect that creates a 0.02 percent blood alcohol content limit for drivers under 21 years old.
* * *
(f) Allocation.—Subject to subsection (g), funds made available to carry out this section shall be allocated among States that meet the eligibility criteria in subsection (b) on the basis of the apportionment formula under section 402(c).
* * *
* Repealed effective October 1, 2012. Pub.L. 112-141, Div. C, Title I, § 31109(e), July 6, 2012, 126 Stat. 757.
Code of Federal Regulations
Title 23 - Highways
§ 1313.6. Requirements for a programmatic state
To qualify for a grant as a programmatic State, a State must adopt and demonstrate compliance with at least three of the following criteria in FY 2006, at least four of the following criteria in FY 2007, and at least five of the following criteria in FY 2008 and FY 2009:
* * *
(f) Underage drinking prevention program—
(1) Criterion. An effective underage drinking prevention program designed to prevent persons under the age of 21 from obtaining alcoholic beverages and to prevent persons of any age from making alcoholic beverages available to persons under the age of 21, that provides for:
* * *
(ii) A program, conducted by a nonprofit or public organization that provides training to alcoholic beverage retailers and servers concerning the clinical effects of alcohol, methods of preventing second-party sales of alcohol, recognizing signs of intoxication, methods to prevent underage drinking, and relevant laws that apply to retailers and servers and that provides procedures to ensure program attendance by appropriate personnel of alcoholic beverage retailers and servers;
* * *
(3) Demonstrating compliance.
(i) To demonstrate compliance in the first fiscal year under this criterion, the State shall submit sample drivers' licenses issued to persons both under and over 21 years of age that demonstrate the distinctive appearance of licenses for drivers under age 21 and the tamper resistance of these licenses. States shall also submit a plan describing a program for educating point-of-sale personnel that covers each element of § 1313.6(f)(1)(ii). States shall submit a copy of their zero tolerance law that complies with 23 U.S.C. 161. In addition, States shall submit a plan that provides for an enforcement program and communications strategy meeting § 1313.6(f)(1)(iv) and (v). 
(ii) To demonstrate compliance in subsequent fiscal years, States need only submit information documenting any changes to the State's driver's licenses or underage driving prevention program, or a certification stating there have been no changes since the State's previous year submission.
* * *
* Repealed effective January 23, 2013.


Source for all citations on this page: FDsys, the Federal Digital System of the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO).
Excerpts from the United States Code are current as of 2014. Excerpts from the Code of Federal Regulations are current as of 2015.  Excerpts from Public Laws of Congress are current as of the year of enactment.
The GPO’s Public Domain/Copyright Notice is available under the Policies heading at
http://www.gpo.gov/help/index.html .


Expander Selected References for Beverage Service Training and Related Practices

  1. Chinman, M., Burkhart, Q., Ebener, P., Fan, C.C., Imm, P., Osilla, K.C., Paddock, S.M., and Wright, A. The premises is the premise: Understanding off- and on-premises alcohol sales outlets to improve environmental alcohol prevention strategies. Prevention Science 12(2):181-91, 2011.
  2. Danaher BG, Dresser J, Shaw T, Severson HH, Tyler MS, Maxwell ED, and Christiansen SM. Development and process evaluation of a web-based responsible beverage service training program. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy, 7:41, September 2012. (doi:10.1186/1747-597X-7-41). Available online at: http://www.substanceabusepolicy.com/content/7/1/41.
  3. Dresser, J., Starling, R., Woodall, W.G., Stanghetta, P., and May, P.A. Field trial of alcohol-server training for prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 72(3):490-496, 2011.
  4. Goodsite, B., Klear, L., and Rosenberg, H. The impact of behavioral signs of intoxication on bartender service. Drugs: Education, Prevention, Policy 15(6):545-551, 2008.
  5. Gosselt, J.F., Van Hoof, J.J., and De Jong, M.D. Why should I comply? Sellers' accounts for (non-)compliance with legal age limits for alcohol sales. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 7(5), 2012.
  6. Ker, K., and Chinnock, P. Interventions in the alcohol server setting for preventing injuries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 16(3), (CD005244), 2008.
  7. Liang, L., Sloan, F.A., and Stout, E.A. Precaution, compensation, and threats of sanction: The case of alcohol servers. International Review of Law and Economics 24(1):49-70, 2004.
  8. Rammohan, V., Hahn, R.A., Elder, R., Brewer, R., Fielding, J., Naimi, T.S., Toomey, T.L., Chattopadhyay, S.K., and Zometa, C. Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Effects of dram shop liability and enhanced overservice law enforcement initiatives on excessive alcohol consumption and related harms: Two Community Guide systematic reviews. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 41(3):334-43, 2011.
  9. Reiling, D.M., and Nusbaumer, M.R. When problem servers pour in problematic places: Alcoholic beverage servers' willingness to serve patrons beyond intoxication. Substance Use & Misuse 41(5):653-668, 2006.
  10. Saltz, R.F. Enlisting bars and restaurants in the prevention of intoxication and subsequent harms: Why it matters. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 41(3):353-4, 2011.
  11. Sloan, F.A., Liang, L., Stout, E.M., and Whetten-Goldstein, K. Liability, risk perceptions, and precautions at bars. Journal of Law and Economics 43:473, 2000.
  12. Toomey, T.L., Erickson, D.J., Lenk, K.M., Kilian, G.R., Perry, C.L., and Wagenaar, A.C. A randomized trial to evaluate a management training program to prevent illegal alcohol sales. Addiction 103(3):405–413, 2008.
  13. Wagenaar, A.C., and Tobler, A.L. Alcohol Sales and Service to Underage Youth and Intoxicated Patrons: Effects of Responsible Beverage Service Training and Enforcement Interventions. Transportation Research Circular. Number E-C123. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies (141-163), 2007.

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