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What’s the Minimum Age To Be a Bartender in the United States?

young bartender behind a bar

The minimum age to be a Bartender and serve alcohol in the United States varies on a state level but typically falls between 18 and 21. Sometimes, it may even depend on the city or county you’re working in.

The laws regarding how old you have to be to work as a Bartender are influenced by the state’s alcohol control laws. These laws dictate employment conditions in establishments that serve alcohol and the rules staff members have to abide by.

If you want to work as a Bartender, it’s important to learn the minimum age for this role in your area. In this article, we’ll look at the bartending age requirements in each state and provide further information on the topic.

General Legal Requirements

As we already mentioned, each state in the U.S. has unique laws for serving alcoholic beverages. While the legal drinking age across the U.S. is 21, in some states you can start working as a Bartender once you turn 18.

However, in some states this isn’t the only legal requirement for Bartenders. Some of them require you to have a bartending license while others allow almost anyone to work in this role. The required training to receive your license also varies on a state level.

Also, some U.S. states have strict laws regarding the criminal record of individuals who want to be Bartenders. In some states, Bartenders can’t have any charges pressed against them in the past five years.

Keep in mind that the rules for serving alcohol in open containers for immediate consumption and selling alcohol in liquor stores aren’t the same. With that said, the minimum to be a Bartender in your state may not be the same as it is for selling alcohol in stores.

State-by-State Minimum Age Requirements in the U.S.

If you want to be a Bartender and you’re not yet 21, it’s best to start by learning how old you have to be to work in this role in your area. Check the laws in your state and find the minimum age requirement for Bartenders.

Still, keep in mind that some states have different minimum age requirements for bartending depending on the type of alcoholic beverages being served.

For example, in Maryland and North Carolina, you can serve wine and beer at 18, but you have to be at least 21 to serve spirits. In Ohio, you can serve beer as a Bartender at 18, but have to be 21 to serve wine and spirits.

Also, cities and counties in some states are allowed to set their own minimum age requirement for Bartenders. They can’t go below the number set by the state, but they can set a higher minimum age if they choose to do so.

That’s why it’s important to do your research on both local and state laws before applying for the position of a Bartender. The table below shows the minimum legal age for serving alcohol across all 50 U.S. states as reported by the Alcohol Policy Information System:

StateMinimum age to be a Bartender
New Hampshire18
New Jersey18
New Mexico21
New York18
North Carolina18
North Dakota21
Rhode Island18
South Carolina21
South Dakota18
West Virginia16

Note: West Virginia has recently altered its laws regarding alcohol service to allow individuals aged 16 to serve liquor. However, to do so, these younger employees have to be supervised by someone who is 21 or older.

Bartending Minimum Age Requirements in 5 Popular US Cities

If you’re an aspiring Bartender in one of the country’s major cities, start by learning their specific laws for bartending. With that said, let’s take a look at how Miami, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas approach minimum age requirements for serving alcohol:

Miami, Florida

In Miami, you have to be at least 18 to serve alcohol, which aligns with Florida state law. Additionally, you don’t need a bartending license to serve alcohol in Florida.

NYC, New York

In New York City, you can work as a Bartender once you’re 18 – and the same goes for the rest of the state. Similar to Miami, you’re not required to have a bartending license in NYC.

Chicago, Illinois

While the minimum age for Bartenders in Illinois is 18, the laws are different in Chicago. The city requires you to be at least 21 to serve alcohol. You also need to have a bartending license and renew it every three years.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles has the same minimum age requirement for working as a Bartender as the rest of California. You have to be at least 21 to serve alcohol and you need to have a bartending license. The license is renewed every three years.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Like in the rest of Nevada, you have to be at least 21 to work as a Bartender in Las Vegas. Nevada also requires you to hold a bartending license and renew it every four years.

Steps for Becoming a Bartender if You’re Underage

If you don’t meet the legal age requirement in your state and want to become a Bartender, consider starting at a non-bartending position, such as a Barback or Server. These roles can help you gain experience and prepare for a Bartender role once you’re old enough.

Working in these positions also means you’ll be working closely with a Bartender in your establishment. They can provide you with mentorship and help you learn the basic skills for their role.

Another good idea is to research bartending courses in your state. If the state allows it, you can take the course even before you’re within the legal bartending age requirement.

young bartender preparing a drink

Legal Consequences of Underage Bartending

Working as a Bartender before you meet the age requirement set by your state can result in significant penalties. Usually, both the underage individual working in the role and the establishment that hired them will receive fines.

Repeat offenses can lead to the establishment losing its liquor license and potential criminal charges against the underage Bartender.


The minimum age requirement for serving alcohol depends on the laws in your state. West Virginia allows individuals as young as 16 to serve alcohol when supervised by someone aged 21 or above.

Establishments hire 18-year-old Bartenders if the minimum bartending age requirement in the state is set at that age or lower.

Once you’re 18, you can work as a Server in California. However, to be a Bartender, you have to be at least 21.

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