Can bartenders drink on the job?

Note: This post originally appeared on

In most professions, drinking at work would not only be highly frowned upon, but would most likely lead to you being fired. Bartending though, is often the exception to the rule. Bartenders are not only allowed to drink while on the job, but may be encouraged to. The answer to “Can bartenders drink on the job?” though can be a bit confusing depending on what state/city you live in and what kind of establishment you work in.

The short answer for whether drinking on the job for bartenders is allowed: it depends.

Drinking on the job depends on a few factors, with the most important being:

Are you 21?

Yes? Good, you are one step closer to finding out whether you can drink while on the job. Remember, some state laws require you only to be 18 years old to bartend. Therefore, regardless of what your state or employers rules are, you would be unable to drink any alcohol while bartending. To find your states bartending age requirements, select your state here.

State Laws

Certain states allow bartenders to drink on the job, but the laws can get blurry depending on what state you live in. For example, in states such as California, bartenders ARE allowed to drink while behind the bar. Where as other states outright ban it.

To get a clear cut answer, we encourage you to reach out to your local City Clerks Office.

It is important to note that although your state may legally allow you to drink while on the job, your employer may not.

Employer Rules

Many clubs, restaurants, and bar owners don’t allow their bartenders to drink while on the job, regardless of what the state law is. This may be for a couple of reasons:

  1. It reduces their liability that you will leave the bar drunk and get injured
  2. You won’t “drink up” all their profits
  3. You will act more professional

Of course, each employer may have his or her own set of rules such as:

  1. You can only drink if the drink is bought for you
  2. You may have one “end of shift drink”

We encourage you to ask your employer what his or her rule is towards drinking on the job. As it is a touchy subject, we often suggest that the best way to go about asking during the interview is to say: “If a patron offers to buy your servers or bartenders a drink while working, what is your suggestion to them?”

How to be a good bartender

Drinking behind the bar can lead to larger tips and happier customers. As a bartender, it is your job to make your patrons happy and often times what makes them happy is buying you a drink.

It is your job though, to handle yourself correctly and know your limit. One or two drinks with a big spender can lead to a large tip (not to mention the sale of the drink itself) and can keep the mood in the bar high.

A trick that bartenders sometimes use when they are being offered too many drinks is to pour a shot and a chaser. You can then take the shot and spit it back into the chaser while quickly throwing the chaser away.

Learn what it takes to be an impressive bartender at