Politics & Government

Last call for SC bill requiring servers, bartenders to undergo alcohol training

Bartenders and servers likely don’t need to worry about the added hassle of getting licensed or undergoing server training — at least not yet.

A bill that would require bartenders and servers in the state to undergo mandatory alcohol server training likely will not pass this year, despite overwhelmingly passing in the state Senate and attracting bipartisan support in the House.

The S.C. House Judiciary Committee voted, 20 to 2, Tuesday to advance the bill to the full House. But with only two days left in the legislative session, time has likely run out to get a vote on the House floor.

“It’s timing at this point,” House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, told The State.

Lawmakers have until 5 p.m. Thursday to pass any outstanding legislation they want to become law this year. On that deadline, the General Assembly’s regular work session ends. Legislators will come back to Columbia in coming weeks, but will be limited in what issues they can take up.

The server-training bill faces another big hurdle for passing this year. Should House lawmakers try to move for a vote on the alcohol-training bill Wednesday, state Rep. Jonathon Hill, R-Anderson, said he plans to object. House rules require bills that pass committee be placed on the House calendar at least one day prior to voting on giving legislation the second of three required approvals.

Meaning, the earliest lawmakers could take up the bill is Thursday, Simrill said, leaving them a day short for a third reading and final passage.

Hill said he opposes the bill because it would increase regulation.

“(B)artender training should be handled by the employer, and this just increases the regulatory burden on what is already an over-regulated industry,” Hill told The State.

Some Columbia bar and restaurant owners support the proposal, noting they already provide training to their employees as a way to cut down on their insurance liability. The bill also has the backing of the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The bill would require those who serve alcohol to attend mandatory training and receive a state permit. The training would teach servers and managers, in part, how to check IDs for age, recognize signs of intoxication and prevent customers from being over-served while also sharing with them methods for managing “problem drinkers,” according to the bill.

Those caught serving someone underage or who is intoxicated could face hundreds of dollars in fines and the suspension of their server permit.

Food and beverage industry staffers can undergo training and take certificate programs now, but those programs are only voluntary except for brewery workers and for staff working at a business that has been cited for alcohol violations.

The proposal was inspired by Alli Leslie, a high-school senior who died in a one-car crash after she was served multiple drinks at an Upstate bar without being carded.

“They (servers and bartenders) are the gatekeeper between someone being served or over-served,” bill sponsor state Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Horry, said during a March Senate committee hearing on the bill.

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Tom Barton covers South Carolina politics for The State. He has spent more than a decade covering local governments and politicians in Iowa and South Carolina, and has won awards from the S.C. Press Association and Iowa Newspaper Association for public service and feature writing.