State & Local Laws

Minimum Age to Serve Alcoholic Beverage in On-Premises Establishments

Thirty-seven (37) states and the District of Columbia permit adults age 18 or older to serve alcoholic beverages in on-premises establishments. Only three states require a server to be age 21 and one state permits persons age 17 to serve alcoholic beverages.

Generally the term server refers to a waitperson, whereas "bartender" refers to a person who dispenses alcoholic beverages. The minimum ages for bartenders are found at Minimum Age to Bartend. On-premises establishments are those in which alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption where purchased instead of elsewhere. They are typically restaurants and bars.

In some states, persons under 21 may be allowed to serve alcohol only in certain types of on-premises establishments, such as restaurants. In some cases, servers must be at least a specified age, but younger employees may be allowed to stock coolers with alcohol or clear alcoholic beverages from tables.

Some states place conditions on on-premises servers under 21 years of age. These include requirements that a legal-age manager or supervisor be present when the underage person is serving alcoholic beverages and/or that the underage server undergo beverage server training beyond that otherwise mandated in the state.

The minimum age for serving alcohol in on-premises establishments are listed by state:

Chicago and a few other cities have established higher minimum ages for servers in on-premises establishments.

 

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