Massachusetts is famously strict when it comes to alcohol and liquor licenses. Regulations prohibit happy hour, severely limit the number of liquor licenses available in specific areas, and regulate when alcohol can and can’t be sold.
However, when it comes to bartending, Massachusetts is surprisingly relaxed. There are far fewer restrictions on bartending than you might expect.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about bartending licenses in the Bay State.
Does Massachusetts require a bartending license?
Believe it or not, Massachusetts does not require bartending licenses for anyone tending a bar. That said, counties, cities, and employers may have different requirements. Most Massachusetts employers and liquor liability insurance carriers require all sellers and servers of alcoholic beverages to be certified. That includes bars, restaurants, nightclubs, sports bars, or anywhere else booze is served.
Restaurant jobs that require a bartender’s license
Depending on an establishment’s location, it’s possible that nobody in the business will need a bartender’s license. However, it’s more likely that liquor liability insurance will require all staff who handles liquor to be certified to do so. That likely will not include a bartender’s license, but a separate certification for wait staff, bussers, or even the back of house.
Even if there are no regulations, it’s still a good idea to have at least one bartender or manager on staff with a bartender’s license. That way, should regulations ever change or an owner change policies, there’s no upheaval in the house.
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How to get a bartending license in Massachusetts
Getting your bartender’s license is pretty easy thanks to the internet. You could even do it in the same day.
If you want to get a bartender’s license, do some research to find an online or in-person course that works for you. With an online course and licensing program, you can complete the training at your own pace and take the licensing exam whenever you’re ready. As long as you pass the exam, you could have your license available immediately.
In cases when you’re really pressed for time, many organizations offer on-premise training programs to expedite the training and certification process so that you can leave after a few hours with a license in hand.
How much does bartending certification cost?
This completely depends on the training you pursue and the state you’re looking to get licensed. In Massachusetts, you’ll likely pay about $15. In other states, getting licensed may range from $12 to $35.
That’s different from bartending school, which will teach you more advanced bartending skills, which may range from $200 to $600.
What are the options for a bartending license?
As we outlined above, there are many options to get your bartending license in Massachusetts or any other state. The state doesn’t offer an official program, but many private businesses run training and licensing programs. Below are examples of popular companies that offer bartending license courses.
How long does it take to get a bartending license?
Most online certifying programs allow you up to six months to earn your license. However, if you’re motivated, you could get your license in a matter of hours.
What skills will you learn during the training?
Unlike bartending school, getting your bartending license isn’t about mixology or learning how to juggle shakers. A bartending license is more focused on safety and liability. You’ll learn how to protect yourself and your establishment from liability, how to recognize the effects of alcohol on others, how to prevent over-intoxication, how to avoid and deal with disturbances, how to identify fake IDs, and more.
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How to succeed as a bartender
Stay up to date on your certifications and requirements
No matter if you’re at a restaurant, cocktail bar, or dive, depending on the state you work in, you must be between 16 and 21 years old to serve alcohol legally. And you must be anywhere between 18 (in states like Massachusetts) and 21 years old (as in Ohio) to bartend.
Check out this site to see what your state or area’s age requirements are to tend bar.
Not every state mandates bartenders are certified, nor does every bar. But before you start filling out applications, make sure you brush up on your local laws about bartending, specifically around serving alcohol.
Level up your bartending skills
Knowing your craft entails following the niche you want to pursue within bartending. But every bartender needs to know the basics. If someone comes up to your bar and orders a Manhattan, you need to understand what they’re talking about - and it’s even better if you can customize it to their taste.
Simple well drinks, like a Long Island Iced Tea, and classic cocktails, like a Dirty Martini are common knowledge for bartenders. Still, you’re limiting your dependability, versatility, and earning potential if they’re all you know how to make. If someone asks for your recommendation off the menu, you need to be able to provide them with the perfect beverage based on your understanding of taste profiles.
Becoming a great bartender isn’t an easy road, but one of the most challenging and rewarding things about it is that there is always more to learn. So get those flashcards out, edit that resume, reach out to people in the industry, and get shaking.
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