Proposed Law Would Require Bartenders to Cut Drunk People Off

If Lorena Gonzalez has her way, California roads will be a lot safer starting in 2020. The San Diego Democrat just introduced a bill into the state assembly that would require bartending personnel and managers to undergo training in how to handle alcohol and cut off intoxicated customers.

While bartenders have always practiced some discretion in this area, the bill would create a more robust legal framework and provide bars with specific training requirements for staff. Furthermore, the legislation would ensure that bartenders across the state follow the same curriculum when they learn how to interact with customers.

Bartending can be a rough job. Employees need to know how to create a huge variety of drinks, but they also must exhibit excellent people skills. Customers come to bars for all sorts of reasons, and the pop culture representation of a bar as a community gathering place and mutual counseling session often rings true.

One of the most frustrating parts of the job can involve making judgement calls about when someone has had too much to drink and needs to go home. Some states have “cut off” laws requiring bartenders to stop serving intoxicated customers. Most have laws barring service to people who are already drunk. Individual bars also have their own policies and procedures for handling customers.

Under the Responsible Interventions for Beverage Servers Training Act of 2016 (RIBS), bartenders would be required to complete a minimum of four training hours on subjects like recognizing intoxication and understanding the physical and social effects of alcohol. The course would also examine state laws surrounding beverage service. Every three years, participants would need to renew their certifications.

Existing training services create a starting point for what the required training might look like. Standardized Training for Alcohol Retailers (STAR) Training mimics other safety certifications used in the food and beverage industry, but in this case, customers are not the sole focus. After all, alcohol affects innocent bystanders too.

Drunk drivers are the main concern here. Intoxicated people who hurt themselves — an uninsured person who requires care for a broken limb, for instance —  may create public health nuisances and expenses. However, when intoxicated people get in cars, the decision can be fatal.

30 people die as a result of drunk driving every day in the United States, including sober drivers in other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. One third of traffic deaths can be attributed to intoxicated driving.

Laws requiring standardized training can be part of the solution by impeding unsafe levels of alcohol consumption in bars. While inattentive bartenders might continue to serve past an advisable point, and adults are still free to purchase large quantities of alcohol at liquor stores, the bill is a step in the right direction.

Training programs will help bartenders make smart choices in difficult situations. State legislation also creates a better framework for establishing guidelines and policies that bartenders can use when they’re dealing with recalcitrant customers. Intoxicated people aren’t always willing to leave a bar or comply with requests to stop drinking, so it helps to have backup — like policies a bartender can turn to as she reminds a customer that she’d be breaking the law if she kept serving.

Should California’s law pass and prove to be effective, it could be a blueprint for other states interested in addressing alcohol-related accidents.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Montes


william Miller
william Miller2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

All respectable bartenders should cut people off when they notice they have had too much to drink, then take the car keys and call them a cab.

Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

Stop putting a buck ahead of lives!

Cela V.
Cela V3 years ago


Brian F.
Brian F3 years ago

Why is alcohol even legal to serve in bars or clubs? Considering that 40,000 people die each year from alcohol related offenses, it should be illegal to sell in cubs, bars, or stores. Then the public and police wander why so many people get drunk and drive, when a deadly drug, alcohol is served so freely. Marijuana never killed anyone, and yet it is criminalized. If marijuana was legalized and sold in clubs instead of alcohol, far fewer people would die.

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn3 years ago

Many thanks to you !

Suzanne Michael
Suzanne Michael3 years ago

This should be enforced all across our nation. Too often the drunk who gets in an accident walks away unscathed because there so limp, while the other people are killed. I've seen people in bars so drunk they can barely stand up and still they keep being served! In America today all that matters is money, and the hell with anything else.

Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

This law also needs to be passed in the other 49 States! Thanks for sharing.