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Alcohol Server Training — Rules and Requirements

Virginia Alcohol Server Training — Rules and Requirements

Approved by the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (DABC)


Alcohol consumption, when not treated with respect and care that it warrants, can quickly turn into a deadly act. Consuming too much alcohol has significant physical effects upon both the mind and the body — someone could choose to get behind the wheel of a car, or simply keep drinking past the point where their body can handle it. And unfortunately, these outcomes affect more than just the drinker in question — it could jeopardize people on the roads with them, and even in the bar or restaurant with them.

The Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) oversees all sales and service of alcoholic beverages throughout the state. This not only includes the legal hours of service and levels of consumption, but also the rules and consequences regarding how businesses serve, and the practices that employees should follow to ensure the safety of their customers.

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Virginia Beverage Training Requirements

Though not mandated by the state legislature, the ABC highly recommends that establishments require their employees to undergo an ABC-approved alcohol training course. This ensures that sellers and servers are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to fully understand their roles and responsibilities on the job.

ABC alcohol server training requirements state that:

  • Employees must be 18 years of age to work sell or serve on-premises (waiter/server, host/hostess, etc.)
  • Employees under 18 may work in an off-premises establishment under supervision of a manager (liquor store, grocery store, etc.)
  • Bartenders or managers of an ABC-licensed establishment must be 21 or older

In an ABC-approved alcohol server training course, staff members will be instructed in the Virginia alcohol laws and regulations they will need to follow each and every time they are involved with furnishing alcohol for public consumption. These topics include the physical and psychological effects of alcohol, Virginia-specific alcohol laws and regulations, proper methods for checking identification and spotting fake or doctored IDs, and how to safely refuse service or defuse a situation with an intoxicated customer. These skills are all incredibly important to prevent the establishment from breaking any laws, and to ensure that customers do not imbibe too much alcohol and put themselves at risk for physical harm.

Consequences of Illegal Service or Sales

If an employee sells or serves to a customer deemed to be unfit (i.e. a minor, already intoxicated, habitual drinker, etc.), they could face criminal charges and fines in the thousands. Some of these penalties include:

  • Serving to an intoxicated customer — 25 days' suspension, $2000 fine
  • Allowing an intoxicated customer to loiter on the premises — 7 days' suspension, $500 fine
  • Serving to a minor — 25 days' suspension, $2000 fine

In addition, the business itself is vulnerable to losing its liquor license, and possibly even shutting its doors permanently. This is especially true if the customer in question were to be involved in an alcohol-related accident, including but not limited to a DUI car crash and illness or death by alcohol poisoning.

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Protecting Your Business and Customers

By requiring employees to complete alcohol training prior to or upon hire, business owners are giving themselves the gift of liability prevention in the event of an emergency. If a server DOES accidentally (or intentionally) serve to a minor or an intoxicated patron, any civil or criminal charges brought against the establishment will be voided. While the employee could still be held responsible, the business has done its due diligence in requiring its staff to be aware of and trained in the laws and practices they need to follow.

More importantly, though, customers and employees alike will be much safer when the staff has been trained to prevent dangerous situations from occurring. Knowing how to deal with intoxicated customers and when to refuse service could stop a violent or potentially threatening incident from occurring, because the server would know the warning signs and be able to refuse service when necessary, and even remove the customer from the building safely.