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How Old Do You Have to be to Serve Alcohol?

Jan 19th 2018 - J. Vigotsky Blog, 

How Old Do You Have to be to Serve Alcohol?

Violating alcohol-related laws carry stiff penalties—especially for owners of bars and restaurants. Consequently, it’s in the best interest of both you and your business to know and diligently follow all laws related to the consumption and distribution of alcohol. This article will answer the all-important question, “How old do you have to be to serve alcohol?”

Unlike the national minimum drinking age, there is no widespread age requirement for serving alcohol. The minimum age depends on what state you’re in and can even differ within the same state. Here is the minimum legal age one needs to be to serve alcohol in each of the respective 50 U.S. states:

State Minumum Age 
Alabama 19
Alaska 21
Arizona 19
Arkansas 19
California 18
Colorado 18
Connecticut 18
Delaware 18
Washington DC 18
Florida 18
Georgia 18
Hawaii 18
Idaho 19
Illinois* 18
Indiana 19
Iowa 18
Kansas 18
Kentucky 19
Louisiana 18
Massachusetts 18
Maine 17
Maryland 18
Michigan 18
Minnesota 18
Mississippi 18
Missouri 18
Montana 18
Nebraska 19
Nevada 21
New Hampshire 18
New Jersey 18
New York 18
New Mexico 19
North Carolina 18
Ohio 19
Oklahoma 18
Oregon 18
Pennsylvania 18
Rhode Island 18
South Carolina 18
South Dakota 18
Tennessee 18
Texas 18
Utah 21
Vermont 18
Virginia 18
Washington 18
West Virginia 18
Wisconsin 18
Wyoming 18

So in the majority of states, the minimum serving age for alcohol is 18. Utah, Nevada, and Alaska require servers to be 21 years of age, while Maine allows 17 year-olds to serve alcoholic beverages. While these age minimums seem cut and dry, they're not quite so simple. Each state has specific quirks when it comes to selling alcohol.

For instance, 18 year-olds in Texas are allowed to serve alcohol only if they’ve completed an alcohol server/seller training course. Due to a local ordinance in the city of Chicago, one must be 21 years of age to serve alcohol. This is despite Illinois' state law requiring servers to only be 18. Other states require someone over 21 to be supervising 18 year-olds who serve alcohol.

To stay on the safe side, always research your own city’s laws before allowing someone under 21 to serve alcohol in your establishment. 

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