RBS Training Regulation Effect on Liquor Liability in California
An analysis conducted by Serving Alcohol Inc.
BOCA RATON, Fla., Sept. 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- On August 31, 2022, the extension of the grace period for the new Responsible Beverage Service Training (RBST) to be completed in California ended. The foundations of the RBST training require all staff members who sell and serve alcohol to be certified by the state. A recent California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) press release reports show that 25% of servers have successfully registered through the Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) portal, completed the training through a state-approved provider (such as Serving Alcohol ), and subsequently passed the state exam. With an estimated 75% of servers still not certified, businesses are asking what the risks of non-compliance are. It’s not just you wondering as our staff is fielding questions on this subject daily. Ultimately, if your business is not in compliance, we believe this may create liability, insurance, and financial risks, so the following is our synopsis.
The Responsible Beverage Service Training Program Act (2017) first introduced the requirements surrounding the Responsible Beverage Service Training Program (RBSTP) for on-premise locations, including multiple license types affecting 56,000 businesses. As of now, anyone who meets the definition of an alcohol server or alcohol manager must attend training through a state-approved provider. Alcohol servers are individuals who check customer identification for service or entry, take orders, pour, or deliver alcohol. In comparison, alcohol managers are anyone who manages, trains, or hires alcohol servers. By definition, any bartender, shift manager, owner, server, door host, human resource manager, and a variety of similar titles will need certification.
Through the process, alcohol sellers and alcohol managers must register through the California RBS portal, complete training offered by a state-approved provider, and pass the state-administered exam (at an additional cost of $3) within 30 days and with a passing score of 70% to achieve certification. After the August 31st deadline, businesses that do not meet the new law requirements face expanded potential liability and litigation. Under the California Business & Professions Code § 25682(b)(1), any server must hold an alcohol server certification.
Other legal, insurance, and hospitality thought leaders are starting to guide this matter. Wendy D. Testa, partner and co-chair of the Complex Tort & General Casualty at the national law firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, stated ′ ...it is anticipated there will be an uptick in liquor liability litigation that may affect millions in the state of California due to licensees not being able to obtain and/or consistently maintain compliance...′ in a Wilson ElserInsight on August 31, 2022, and republished in the September 6, 2022, issue of the National Law Review.
According to the California Alcoholic Beverage Control’s frequently asked questions, unfinished or untaken training will not place staff at risk of a criminal violation. Criminal violations can result in fines, community service, or jail when the ” seller (is) held responsible for a crime observed by law enforcement officer(s).” The California ABC allows a “safe period” after the deadline to inform and instruct businesses and servers about the new law rather than punishing them for being out of compliance. However, a definitive end date has not yet been announced.
Under civil liability in California, a server may be held liable for damages and injuries related to an intoxicated person. Business and Professions Code Section 25602.1 states that ” liability exists only when the patron was obviously intoxicated and under age 21 at the time of the sale ”. If the server or business was not entirely in compliance with training, it could be used as character evidence.
California ABC also can claim administrative liability against the business license. Violations can result in fines, suspensions, and revocation. The ” administrative disciplinary action protects the public welfare and morals.” Under administrative liability, staff lacking proper training could be interpreted as endangering the public welfare and morals by state authorities. For example, being deemed as keeping a disorderly house or an alcohol-selling establishment that acts as “injurious to the public morals, health, convenience, or safety.”
The cost of doing business may escalate very quickly should insurance companies increase premiums regarding the training. For example, an underwriter may increase liability coverage simply because a business creates undue risk when staff has not received mandatory training. Business owners can see who has successfully passed the state exam in the RBS portal; the responsibility relies solely on the business to know the status of their servers and correctly report compliance. The completion status of each employee will likely be a discovery area during underwriting or re-issuance of liability coverage. Audits and questions of regulatory staff compliance are common practices for many insurance agencies.
Finally, as the California hospitality industry slowly starts to absorb an estimated $15 million in training costs (not including time and opportunity costs), a potentially more significant hit to the wallet is expected. Suppose the California ABC or local or state government finds out a business has served an overly intoxicated person or minor. In that case, the business can expect up to $1,500 in fines per infraction plus court fees. In California, throughout 2019, over 120,000 people were arrested for DUIs, 400 minors, according to the Foundation of Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
Serving Alcohol Inc is the nation’s premier professional online alcohol seller server training provider. We are backed by over 37 years of professional experience and have trained hundreds of thousands of servers and bartenders nationwide. We are the preferred training provider for restaurant chains, bars, and entertainment venues coast to coast. Please visit our RBST page to learn more.
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SOURCE Serving Alcohol