[Editor’s note: The Hospitality, Alcohol & Leisure Industry Group at Greenspoon Marder LLP represents clients in many jurisdictions around the U.S., including California — attorney Roger Tefft’s home base. Recent California Beverage Law changes are worth reporting on here for clients operating, or who are considering operating, in that state.]
California database engineers are working in earnest to develop an online registry for an estimated one million active alcohol beverage servers in the state. It’s one prong of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s (ABC) rollout of legislatively-mandated Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training enacted in 2017.
Effective July 1, 2021, all of California’s on-premises alcohol beverage servers must complete RBS training and pass an ABC-administered exam, and the race is on to have a system in place to track the certification status for each and every one of them.
One million is a big number, but if you visualize what one million looks like, it seems huge. To drive 1,000,000 miles, your car must drive 60 miles per hour continuously for 1.9 years. To count to 1 million – at one number per second – you would be counting for more than 11 and a half days without a break.
Of course, the data for 1 million people will largely be user-inputted once the system that can handle that amount of data is operational. According to sources close to the project, the ABC currently has enough funding and programmers to get the system designed and running long before July 1, 2021, and the work has already begun – even as the ABC finalizes pending regulations that implement the RBS law.
RBS applies to all on-premises licensees in California – bars, restaurants, tasting rooms, clubhouses, and even non-profit operators of festivals and events. Under proposed regulations, anyone who checks IDs, takes an alcohol order, pours the drink, or serves it to a guest, and anyone who hires, trains or supervises anyone who performs any of those discrete tasks, must complete an ABC-approved RBS training course and pass the ABC-administered exam.
As shocking as it may seem (to some, at least) that California was not an early adopter of mandatory alcohol service training, most responsible businesses have been training their alcohol beverage servers for years. Training providers like ServSafe, TIPS, and others, have training programs in every state, even in states where no training is legally required (of which, the number is shrinking).
Those providers will need to tailor their existing curriculum to cover all topics of the RBS course mandated by the statute and regulations. Licensees who want a preview of what the curriculum will entail can see a course outline that spans more than nine pages (sections 162-166 of the proposed Regulations). [Link: https://www.abc.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/AB1221-second-modification-full-text.pdf]
A 10-day license suspension could be imposed – under the proposed Regulations that are expected to become final after March 6 – whenever a licensee continues to employ, or hires, an uncertified alcohol beverage server on or after July 1, 2021.
Note: RBS differs from the ABC’s Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs (LEAD) program, which is a voluntary course (except that a local jurisdiction may impose it as a condition of a location-specific land use permit). LEAD is available to all ABC licensed businesses, whereas RBS applies only to on-sale premises.