Texas is one of the few states where you can legally work as a bartender without a license. Most states have rigorous requirements for becoming a bartender, but Texas bartenders get a bit of a break in that regard.
However, although a bartender license isn’t mandatory in Texas, taking a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) approved course is required. Successfully completing a TABC approved course is the only way to earn TABC certification. And certification makes it much easier to find work as a bartender in Texas.
The Significance of TABC Certification
Texas doesn’t make that many demands of its bartenders – except when it comes to age.
You can’t legally work as a bartender in Texas unless you’re 18 years old or older. But aside from the age requirement, Texas state law is lenient when it comes to who can and who can’t work as a bartender.
If no Texas state law says bartenders need TABC certification, then why should anyone bother becoming certified? Well, you should bother because most employers require certification. Although the state doesn’t mandate certification, most employers won’t hire bartenders who aren’t TABC certified.
The TABC makes it easy to find providers that offer approved courses. And going into a classroom isn’t necessary. You can get TABC certification online from approved training schools. Online courses are just as valid as in-person courses.
And if you choose an online course, you’ll get your certificate as soon as you pass the final exam. You can easily print the certificate from your own computer. But here’s a word of caution: never try to fake a TABC certificate.
There have been incidents of people attempting to fake TABC certificates. With the software available today, it’s often easy to design a somewhat believable fake certificate or document – but don’t do it!
Counterfeiting and forging a TABC certificate is a criminal offense. You could get charged with a Class A misdemeanor or spend time in jail. It’s easier to take the course and do everything legally.
TABC Approved Providers
The TABC keeps an updated list of approved providers on its website. The list includes schools that offer in-person classes, as well as schools that are online-only.
On the other hand, Food Handlers of Texas is an education center that generally offers online and in-person courses. But because of the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person courses are currently unavailable.
The Final Exam
In most cases, you’ll need a score of at least 70 to pass the TABC certificate final exam. You’ll also get two attempts to pass. If you fail your second attempt, then you’ll have to retake the entire course.
Taking a Course
As stated earlier, TABC stands for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The TABC is responsible for certifying and regulating courses available for bartenders in Texas. Any person who completes a certified TABC training course will become TABC certified.
Courses teach bartenders to deal with certain issues related to working as a bartender. For example, bartenders learn when and how to refuse sales of alcoholic beverages to minors. They also learn how to deal with drunk patrons and non-members trying to buy alcohol in a private club.
Although certification isn’t required by law, most employers feel that the courses provide valuable training. An employer is likely to hire a bartender who knows how to make informed decisions while on the job.
Certification courses focus on issues such as:
- Learning Texas alcohol laws. Knowing local laws regarding selling and serving alcohol will keep you from making serious mistakes.
- Learning how to avoid selling or serving alcohol to people who are already drunk. Doing this can land a business in serious legal trouble.
- Learning how to check IDs and refuse alcohol sales to minors properly. Selling or serving alcohol to minors in Texas is a class A misdemeanor.
- Learning how to tactfully refuse to sell alcohol to a drunk or unruly person. Bartenders need good people skills to avoid potentially explosive situations.
TABC certification is all about teaching bartenders (and other sellers and servers) how to serve and sell alcohol safely. Certification shows you’ve completed an approved course. And it also means the TABC officially recognizes you as a certified seller or server of alcohol within Texas.
Specific Course Topics
Course topics depend on where you take the course. Generally, courses will cover topics as specified by the TABC. But the exact course topics will vary by school.
Here are some topics you can expect to encounter in a course:
- Defining blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and how it’s calculated.
- Factors that affect a person’s BAC.
- The effects of mixing alcohol with prescription or non-prescription drugs.
- Recognizing a second-party sale. (A second-party sale is when an adult buys alcohol for a minor).
- The purpose, rules, and goals of TABC certification.
- The role bartenders play in public safety.
- How to refuse a sale without causing conflict.
- How to spot a fake ID.
- The responsibilities and obligations of a bartender, based on Texas law.
- The Dram Shop Act.
- Safe Harbor.
Perks of TABC Certification
Certification offers the best way to learn how to responsibly and legally sell and serve alcohol. However, there are other benefits, as well.
For example, you might receive a lower penalty if you violate a service or sales law. The TABC might take your training into account and show leniency when deciding your punishment.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of certification is the improved possibility of finding employment. Certification doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find work as a bartender. However, certification does increase your chances of finding a job. If an employer requires certification, you’re already ahead of any applicant who doesn’t have training.
How to Move Forward with TABC Certification
All that’s required is to enroll in an approved TABC certified course, complete the course, and pass the final exam. As long as you pass the exam, you’ll receive your official certificate.
How Long is Your TABC Certification Valid?
Certification is valid for two years from the day you complete the course. To renew your certification, you’ll have to take another course and pass the exam. If possible, you’ll want to take the course 30 to 60 days before your current certificate expires.
Note that a valid social security number is required to become certified. If you don’t currently have proof of your social security number, then a worker ID number will suffice. To receive a Texas worker ID number, you must have proof of the following:
- US citizenship or proof of lawful presence. Lawful presence means you’re in the US legally according to federal immigration laws.
- Texas residency.
- A valid form of identification – such as a driver’s license.
- A valid social security number.
Age Restrictions and Criminal History
There isn’t an age limit on who can take a TABC course and get certified. However, there is an age restriction on who can serve and sell alcohol in Texas. No one younger than 18 years old may serve or sell alcohol.
In Texas, a criminal background doesn’t prevent you from becoming TABC certified. Most states can prevent those with a criminal background from earning a bartender’s license. But Texas doesn’t require a license, and the rules for certification are different from rules for earning a license.
The Dram Shop Act
The Dram Shop Act is a statute in 38 states – including Texas. According to the Dram Shop Act, any business that sells alcoholic beverages to a clearly intoxicated or nearly intoxicated person is liable for any damage the drinker causes.
For example, say that a bartender serves a beer to a clearly drunk patron. If that patron drives drunk and causes an accident, then the business that served the beer is liable for any damages.
The Dram Shop Act is controversial. The main complaint is that it’s hard to prove that the alcohol served at the business caused the accident. An intervening cause could’ve caused the accident – such as an animal in the road or bad road conditions.
Safe Harbor is a rule put in place by the TABC. In short, a business will not lose its liquor permit if a bartender (or another employee) breaks the law regarding serving or selling alcohol. However, that doesn’t mean the employer or employee will not face civil action, fines, or possible jail time.
The following criteria are required for Safe Harbor to apply:
- The person who broke the law isn’t the owner or a high-ranking employee.
- The person who broke the law must have a valid TABC certificate.
- All employees who sell, serve, or deliver alcohol must become certified within 30 days of being hired.
- The business must have written policies that state employees’ responsibilities who sell, serve, or deliver alcohol. The business must make sure that all employees read and understand the policies.
- The employer didn’t encourage the employee to break the law.
- There are no more than three violations within a year.
TABC Certification – Beneficial for Texas Bartenders
It’s worth repeating that TABC certification isn’t a state law. Technically, you can work as a bartender in Texas without certification. However, that doesn’t mean certification isn’t worth your time.
Certification is worth the time and expense because you’ll likely need it. Most employers in Texas – at least those who hire bartenders – make TABC certification a job requirement.
Certification is smart for business owners and bartenders. Courses focus on topics that are relevant to legally selling and serving alcohol. There’s also a focus on Texas laws concerning alcoholic beverages.
The information learned helps keep business owners and bartenders safe. When everyone understands the responsibilities of serving and selling alcohol, it creates a safe and professional environment.
If you’re trying to decide if certification is worth it, then the answer is yes. You have much to gain but nothing to lose. You can opt to take an online class in the safety of your own home. Complete the final exam, and then print your certificate.
You also have to remember that certification makes it easier to land jobs. When an employer knows you’re certified, that employer is more likely to see you as a good addition to the business.
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