8 Safety Tips To Make You A Better Bartender

On July 1st, 2022, a new California law was enacted mandating Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training and certification for businesses with an ABC license for on-site alcohol sales and consumption. Who within the organization has to be RBS certified? Servers and bartenders that check IDs and serve alcohol and their managers are among those who must be certified under the new requirement, as well as bouncers who check IDs coming into the establishment.

Safety is an often glossed-over topic when working as a bartender since many people would think these things are common sense. An RBS certification aims to help you become a better bartender by teaching you how to safely and responsibly serve alcoholic beverages while helping minimize alcohol-related harm in our communities.

As an ABC-approved training provider, RBS Training heavily emphasizes all aspects of bartender safety and prepares you to be a confident and compliant bartender. Upon completion, you will better understand the importance of checking IDs, cleanliness, organization, awareness, attire, safe alcohol handling techniques, and emergency preparedness.

Always Check ID

One of the most important things you learn during your RBS certification is to check the ID of every customer before initiating a sale. Anyone purchasing alcohol in the state of California must be able to present the proper identification that proves they’re above the age of 21. The ID card must contain the following information:

  • Must not be expired
  • Photograph
  • Date of Birth
  • Name of the person presenting it
  • Issued by a U.S. government agency (could be federal, state, or city)
  • Physical description of the person presenting it

However, it is not uncommon for minors to try and present fake IDs to drink with friends at a bar. Serving minors is unlawful and can have severe repercussions against you, your employer, and anyone who may get injured as a result. When a youthful-looking person presents their ID to you, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) recommends using the acronym F-L-A-G (Feel, Look, Ask, Give Back) when checking the validity of their ID.

  • Feel: Always ask a customer to take their card out of their wallet or cardholder, so you can hold and feel for markings or signs that it’s a replica.
  • Look: Confirm that the patron’s birth date shows that they’re over 21 and that the photo’s facial features (nose, eye shape, ears, proportions) match the person presenting the ID.
  • Ask: If you have doubts after looking at and feeling the ID, ask them questions about the information on the card. They should answer accurately and confidently. 
  • Give Back: Know your company’s policy regarding fake IDs. In California, you can give it back to the customer or seize it, follow proper procedures, and turn it into local law enforcement in the next 24 hours.

Even if your establishment has a bouncer that checks ID at the door, it is a good practice to check again before initiating a sale. Following the F-L-A-G acronym for every ID ensures that you do your due diligence when practicing bartender safety.

Don’t Over-Serve Customers

RBS training in California will give you the tools to address difficulties that can arise when drunk customers become problematic. As a bartender, your part is to help identify and refuse service to anyone that appears to be intoxicated. But what does “obviously intoxicated” mean? According to California law, an individual is obviously intoxicated when the average person can clearly tell if someone has had a few too many drinks. When bartending, you should keep an eye out for customers who display signs of intoxication, such as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Droopy or watery red eyes
  • Changes in speech volume
  • Lack of eye focus
  • Argumentative speech and behavior
  • Stumbling, falling, or swaying

If you notice similar signs in one of your customers, notify your manager and coworkers immediately. They must know why you have refused service to a customer so they can back you up and help diffuse the situation if needed.

When informing the customer that they’re cut off from alcohol for the night, practicing discretion and maintaining a calm demeanor is paramount. You should be respectful while ensuring they settle their tab and understand that they will not receive any more alcohol that night.

If they’re with friends or family, inform them of the situation and get their help in safely removing the intoxicated person from the premises with a designated driver or calling them an Uber. They should not hang around with buddies that may try and slide them some more alcohol after they’ve been cut off. An intoxicated person may try to bargain and ask you for one more drink before closing their tab, but standing firm and refusing service is the best practice.

Under California law, it is illegal to serve a person who is obviously intoxicated, regardless of whether they are driving or ridesharing. You are guilty of a misdemeanor if you do. Suppose you or your establishment are found to have repeatedly served overly intoxicated guests. In that case, you may face administrative penalties or even criminal prosecution and a revocation of the establishment’s liquor license.

Maintain a Clean and Organized Work Area

Having an organized and clean workspace behind the bar is more than just ensuring you aren’t violating health codes. While proper hygiene in the workplace is crucial, having an optimal organization system for your drinks and tools helps prevent injuries to yourself and your coworkers during peak business hours. A good rule of thumb is to establish your workspace so everything you need can be within arm’s reach. This allows you to work efficiently without having to weave up and down around coworkers while making drinks.

An excellent habit to form while working behind the bar is resetting everything during your downtime. After serving several drinks during a rush, leaving your work area cluttered when you have a minute to breathe is not ideal. You never know when the next rush may happen. Take a few minutes to reorganize and clean up between rushes. You can fulfill orders quickly with a clean workspace to help minimize the risk of injury during the rushes.

Learning to clean as you entertain guests is crucial if you want to become a better bartender. You can check on your guests as you wipe down the bar, clean off your shakers, and put the mixers and spirits back in their spots. When you clean as you go, you will have less mess to handle at the end of the shift.

Having labels and designated spots for every bottle, tap, and keg in the bar or storage coolers is an easy way to keep track of inventory and ensure everyone knows where everything goes. Designated and easily accessible locations for your inventory and tools reduce stress for you and co-workers, making closing time clean-up much faster.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings At All Times

Bartender safety extends beyond staying physically safe and clean while behind the bar. It also encompasses keeping an eye on the establishment’s environment to ensure everyone has a safe and fun experience.

If you have enough people scheduled during the shift, always have someone walk around to pick up finished drinks and clean up spills. Having a bar full of intoxicated people is much more challenging to manage if they’re more likely to fall and injure themselves on dirty, wet floors and tables. Additionally, always keep the pathway to the bar, walkways between seating areas, and emergency exits clear of all obstructions. Should an emergency occur, everyone needs to be able to evacuate quickly and safely without tripping over boxes or slipping on spills.

An excellent practice for responsible service is to only serve alcohol to the customer that orders it and have them take it directly. Similarly, you should not allow someone to order drinks for another customer who was not present at the time of ordering. Helping prevent spiked drinks begins with a vigilant bartender.

Staying alert during a shift means not drinking with customers while working. Even one drink can impair your judgment and increase the risk of hazards. Under California law, you can taste alcohol to know your product for adequate service. However, that does not include taking shots with friendly customers while on duty.

While drinking caffeinated beverages is common in the industry to help keep you awake, becoming dependent on them can lower your work quality. Instead, try getting restful sleep and eating balanced meals before your shift. Proper nutrition and sleep hygiene are better for a clear mind, and higher sustained energy levels without a hard crash. Taking adequate care of yourself before, during, and after your shift is vital to becoming a better bartender.

Only Handle Glassware Using Proper Techniques

During RBS training in California, you will learn that properly handling glassware is a critical component of responsible bartending. Mishandling glassware can cause chipping and injuries to yourself and your customers, costing you time and money during shifts.

When picking up glassware, you should always grab it from the bottom. Touching parts of the glass that can come into contact with a person’s mouth, like the rim or the inside, is a health code violation. Always check the glassware for stains and contaminants before using it. Sometimes, dishwashers don’t remove everything, so you should set it aside to wash again if you catch any residual stains.

Additionally, you should never use glass to scoop up ice. It can damage the glassware and leave chips in the ice, making it dangerous and unsanitary. If a glass is used to scoop ice, you should melt the ice using hot water, ensure that there are no glass chips in the bin, and refill it.

When storing glassware, ensure it is kept in clean and stable cabinetry or racks. Glasses should never be precariously stacked, and stemless glasses are best kept separate from stemmed ones.

Always Use Caution When Handling Hot Liquids

During winter, it’s not uncommon for restaurants and bars to add warm or hot beverages to their menus. However, using the right tools and techniques to safely and successfully create delicious warm cocktails is essential.

Before preparing a hot cocktail, you should research the flash points of the alcohol and the best methods for heating it to prevent it from accidentally going up in flames. It is highly recommended that you keep an electric kettle on hand. You can safely heat cocktails without sacrificing the balance of flavors. Additionally, you should temper the glassware by carefully pouring hot water over it, so it does not shatter when hot liquids are poured into it.

Any glassware or mugs for serving hot drinks must be designed to keep the inside warm and the customer from burning their hands. Double-walled glassware or earthenware like clay mugs is best for these hot beverages. Handling hot liquids and equipment with care is essential for bartender safety during your shift.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Footwear

Before purchasing any clothing or shoes for your job, double-check the uniform policy first. Many bars and restaurants may have a specific uniform they give you or ask that you wear specific types of clothing, like an all-black semi-casual attire.

You should wear clothing that does not restrict your movement while achieving the overall appearance your upper management desires. Be mindful that your clothes are also not too loose, as baggy clothing can dip into drinks or snag on things while you work and increase your risk of injury and unhygienic practices. Clothing should fit comfortably while still looking professional. Additionally, darker colors are recommended so spills and stains are less noticeable if something happens on shift.

The feet are the body’s foundation; working as a bartender or server means you need support. If you are not wearing adequate footwear, you risk causing serious harm to your joints and back after years in the service industry. Investing in high-quality footwear is imperative for better comfort, less risk of injury, and less pain at the end of your shift. Footwear should always be closed-toe, supportive, and non-slip for bartenders. Non-slip shoes are a requirement in virtually every restaurant or bar because the floors may see an occasional spill that you could easily slip on and cause serious injury.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

There’s always a higher risk of medical emergencies in bars and restaurants where many people gather to drink. For more well-rounded training in bartender safety, it is highly recommended that you become certified in giving First Aid and CPR. The moments between a medical emergency happening and the EMTs arriving can be crucial for safeguarding your and your customer’s health.

In addition to first aid and CPR training, having up-to-date and approved first aid kits and fire extinguishers is a requirement under OSHA and California law. Every establishment should have an adequately equipped first aid kit for workers and customers should small injuries happen. You should ensure that your bar or restaurant has Class B fire extinguishers that are made for putting out fires from combustible liquids. Fire extinguishers are mandatory by law and should always be easily accessible, especially if you work in a place that offers burning drinks. 

Get Certified with RBS Training

After receiving your RBS certification, you will be ready to handle:

  • Checking IDs
  • Avoiding over-serving
  • Maintaining clean and organized workspaces
  • Utilizing proper techniques for preparing drinks and customer interactions
  • Wearing appropriate attire
  • Staying aware and prepared for emergencies

A responsible bartender who understands safe alcohol service practices is indispensable for ensuring everyone has a memorable night for all the right reasons. With RBS Training in California, you’ll learn it all with real-world scenarios that drive home the importance of these safety tips. Visit us here if you have any questions or want to reach out to us. We are happy to help you become a better bartender.