State-by-State Requirements to Be a Bartender in New EnglandMcKenna Marsden
Bar owners like to stay in business, and staying in business means making sure you’re following local liquor laws and protecting yourself from being sued if someone has an accident after drinking at your business. Some states require, and other states recommend, certifications for anyone who serves alcohol to help with that. The courses usually take 2-6 hours to do, and go over things like how to tell when someone’s intoxicated, how and when to cut someone off, and how to diffuse tense situations. Here’s a breakdown of what laws apply where in New England, and what certifications you can get to comply with them and get serving.
Connecticut is pretty easy—they don’t have any legally required server training. Your employer may still want you to get some kind of training for their insurance, though. Talk to potential employers about what course they want you to have, or go with a widely recognized option like T.I.P.S. or ServSafe.
You’re required to have a certification to tend bar in Maine, but they’re pretty flexible about where you get it from. You can take a look at a list of accredited courses here—it includes commonly available courses like T.I.P.S. and ServeSafe. While it does accept a lot of certifications, Maine may not accept the online versions of them, so it’s worth looking up an upcoming in-person training in your area.
Massachusetts doesn’t require you to have a certification, but does require your employer to have liability insurance… which usually requires you to have a certification. What programs will work depends on your employer’s insurance, but some of the most commonly accepted are T.I.P.S., ServSafe, and T.A.M. All of them can be taken online or in a class—you can look up upcoming class times and locations on their websites.
Servers don’t need any special training in New Hampshire (owners and managers do, though—they need to take a state-run certification called MTS.) It’s still possible that a bar owner may want you to take a course for their insurance, but like in Massachusetts, what they accept will depend on the insurance.
Rhode Island requires servers to have a certification, and like Maine, it accepts a lot of widely available courses. The bad news is their website listing what courses are approved it currently being updated, so there’s no published list of what certifications they’ll accept. T.I.P.S., ServSafe, S.M.A.R.T., and A.S.A.P. have all been accepted in the past, though, so you should be safe with one of them.
Vermont is the strictest state in New England as far as certification—you need to take a special course offered by the state. You can take it for free online, for $25 as a seminar, or your employer may offer it in-house. You can register for it through Vermont’s liquor control board website.
You may notice when you look at these that (except for Vermont) T.I.P.S. will either meet the state requirement or meet most bar owners’ insurance needs. You can usually take it after you start working somewhere, but it doesn’t hurt to get it ahead of time, either. Local Bartending offers T.I.P.S. training online or in a class to help you get started on your bartending career—legally, responsibly, and safely.