Photo Courtesy of BKM Photography
As mobile bartenders we're frequently asked if we have a "bartending license," which I'm usually hesitant to answer because it's a two minute winded explanation. In short there is no such thing as a "bartending license", but depending on the venue, there are requirements to serving alcohol sometimes; ABC license and permits, bartender certification, and or liquor liability insurance.
1) ABC License - there is no such thing as a "licensed bartender," however bars and restaurants can be licensed with the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) then apply for an off-site catering permit to sell you or your guests drinks (at bar and restaurant prices). The ABC regulates the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of alcohol here in California and when it comes to special events (like a wedding) they don't always require licensing. This is true under a few circumstances 1) Event is private and closed to the public 2) There is no cost to get in 3) There is no charge for drinks 4) Host provides the alcohol (and LA Speakeasy serves it!). There are certain venues, however, whose policy still requires all companies serving alcohol to hold an ABC license (even if not required by ABC standards).
2) Certified Bartenders - usually means you went to a bartending school for a few weeks, learned some (mostly outdated) recipes, and passed a speed test (usually with food coloring instead of alcohol). But there is no law stating bartenders must be certified in order to serve alcohol and in fact I don't really know what authority oversees bartending schools or if the certifications hold any merit (doubt it). But I'm not going to lie... Iveth and I both went through this process many years ago but nothing we learned then is applied to what we do now. When a venue asks us for bartender certifications it's a little laughable because this is no indication to us of someone who knows what they're doing (reduced liability on paper, maybe). We value experience much more and there's an abundance of bartenders here in Los Angeles with years of experience and no certification.
3) Liquor Liability Insurance - protects the party host and venue from liabilities resulting in the service of alcohol. When a venue asks for a bartending certificate (and not insurance) I suggest to them asking for liquor liability insurance is a better indicator of trustworthy service and reduces their liability should anything happen. LA Speakeasy holds a $1M liquor liability policy and can name any venue we service as additional insured.
So if you ever find yourself planning a special event and the venue allows you to bring in outside alcohol, ask what requirements are in place for bartenders? They may have unique policies (no shots, clean up procedures, etc.) or they may need one of the above.
If you have any questions I look forward to answering them below.