Thousands of Bay Area bartenders set to complete new statewide training by Aug. 31

Hundreds of thousands of bartenders, servers and service industry managers across California are racing towards a deadline to complete a new mandatory statewide training program.

On July 1, Assembly Bill 1221, or the Responsible Beverage Service Training Act goes into effect, requiring anyone who serves alcohol or prepares drinks — or even checks ID — to complete a three- to four-hour training program and pass a two-hour open-book test. About 800,000 to 1 million service industry workers in California will have 60 days, or until August 31, to obtain this certification, which, according to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), aims to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities related to drunk driving in the state.

But San Francisco bar and restaurant lobbies, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and the San Francisco Bar Owners Alliance, say the fast-approaching deadline needs to be pushed back for a myriad of reasons, including the fact that training doesn’t is currently only available in English and Spanish. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors also passed a resolution asking the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to delay implementation of the law, which was originally expected to happen in July 2021 but was delayed due to the pandemic.

In a press release, co-founder of Sam Wo Restaurant and Lion’s Den Lounge in Chinatown, Steve Lee, said the lack of training materials in other languages ​​could put more pressure on an industry that is already struggling. with staff shortages. “This tight deadline is unfair to smaller restaurants that employ servers with limited English proficiency – more time and resources are needed to level the playing field,” Lee’s statement read in part.

Ben Bleiman, founder of the San Francisco Bar Owners Alliance and a prominent advocate for bar owners in the city, estimated that up to 90% of businesses in San Francisco have yet to have their staff certified. It’s an unnecessarily complicated process, he says, in part because the training is administered by a relatively small number of third party companies which must be approved by the state. However, before workers can enroll in the course, they must also Register from the ABC to receive a 9-digit ID, which costs $3. This is in addition to training costs, which can range from $6 to $40 per person, depending on the company and whether it is completed in person or online. Bleiman also points out that some workers may be reluctant to enroll in a statewide registry if they live in the country without the proper legal documents.

An ABC spokesperson recounts Los Angeles Times the ministry will focus on “raising awareness rather than immediately penalizing companies that don’t comply.” But Bleiman says assurances that business owners won’t be immediately held accountable for ensuring their staff have completed the training aren’t enough. “There’s not a lot of trust between licensees and licensees and the ABC,” Bleiman says. Additionally, he says bar and restaurant owners will still bear the burden of additional legal liability once the law comes into effect, whether or not the department actively enforces it. “Just to add that into the fray, it’s just a bit offensively boring,” Bleiman said.

John Park, owner and operator of KAIYÅŒ and managing partner of Brick x Brick Hospitality Group (KAIYÅŒ, Whitechapel and Novela), is part of the SF Bar Owners Alliance and says he has already started getting his bar staff certified – but agrees that rolling out the new program has been problematic. “[The] The training has been on my radar for a short time now, but the state and the ABC have done little to make it widely known in the industry and, more importantly, to effectively communicate the resources needed to comply,” Park says via email. Not only should workers have more time to complete the certification, he says, but it should also be free.

Ilya Romanov, owner of Bar Iris on Polk Street, is one of many Bay Area bartenders and servers who will need to take the training but have yet to do so. He says he hasn’t heard much about the deadline from friends in the industry, likely because many bar owners and workers are focused on other pressing issues, like keeping staff. healthy and safe despite the latest COVID surge and figure out how to keep their doors open after the past two years of struggle. “There are certainly other priorities,” he says simply.

Still, Romanov says he plans to get his certification online in the next few days – before he starts encouraging his staff to do the same. Romanov, a longtime San Francisco bar industry veterinarian, says he supports the idea of ​​providing more training on how to serve alcohol safely, especially for newcomers to the business. industry. But also points out that existing TIPS training, which is free, already covers this information. “Why would you want to spend the extra time and money to basically do a certification very similar to something you’ve done before?”

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