New Law Pending for Businesses Serving Alcohol

Passed in 2017, Assembly Bill 1221 takes effect July 1 in California requiring hundreds of thousands of bartenders, wait staff and managers at establishments serving alcohol beverages to be certified by Aug. 31. Each must take a three- to four-hour training class and pass a two-hour examination.

Only 33,000 have been certified thus far, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Course content includes the affects of alcohol on the body, the consequences of over-serving, laws regulating alcohol – such as verifying ages – and techniques for handling inebriated customers.

The law affects some 56,000 establishments in California of which 10,605 are in Los Angeles County, according to the Times.

Initially the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) plans to rely on outreach to insure compliance versus penalizing businesses that do not comply. Workers hired after Aug. 31 will have 60 days to become certified.

AB 1221 was authored by former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who pushed for state-mandated “responsible beverage service training” in the aftermath of a car crash allegedly caused by a drunk driver that killed two UC San Diego medical students and seriously injured three others.

Its implementation was delayed due to the negative impacts of COVID-19 on restaurants during the past two years.

It is an adaptation of ABC’s LEAD program, started in 1991, offering training to licensees and their employees through its Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs program. Until now, it was a free, voluntary, prevention and education program for retail licensees, their employees and applicants.

The program provides attendees with practical information on selling alcoholic beverages safely, responsibly, and legally, with emphasis on preventing sales to minors, sales to obviously intoxicated persons and illicit drug activity at the licensed establishment, according to ABC’s website.

Locally, Eric Johnson said that “we have been aware of this new law and have been preparing to incorporate with our current team members and include as part of future hiring protocols of new staff.”

Johnson operates The Auld Dubliner, The Ordinarie, Legends, Poor Richards and O’Malley’s in Seal Beach.

“I believe we have approximately 30-40% of our staff that have begun the process and will have everyone certified and complete the program prior to the deadline. We have also recently hired some summer team members, so we are updating our handbooks and employee policies to accommodate the new requirements,” he said.

“We welcome the law and requirements for additional training and certification of our team as it relates to alcohol service at our establishments. We have always placed great importance in the training and education of our staff in responsible alcohol service, not only for the well-being and safety of our customers but also for our staff and our community.”

Johnson continued, “We have required our staff to be LEAD certified as part of our hiring and training processes as provided by the ABC since the early 90s … and has been a great service for bar and restaurant owners to help staff understand the responsibilities and potential inabilities associated with serving alcoholic beverages.”

“We implemented LEAD training when we opened our first restaurant and realized very early on it is a much better customer experience for everyone when staff is knowledgeable and cognizant of their responsibilities when serving guests. Providing additional training, education and focused attention on this so they can properly perform their job is something we support,” Johnson said.

Ken Buck, who operates Joe Jost’s on Anaheim Street, said “We are aware of the law. 100% of all employees are certified and have been for years.

“Considering the societal impact of serving an intoxicated patron, having your employees certified is the prudent thing to do.”


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