Proposed bill would give California bartenders new responsibilities

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Besides mixing drinks and greeting patrons bartenders in California could soon have another added responsibility.

Currently, you don't need a license to be a bartender in California, but bartenders are encouraged to take a voluntary class to learn about the effects of alcohol. However, under a new bill that would be mandatory.

Between greeting, making and pouring drinks for customer Ty Walker is also a cautious observer. "I've been doing it 10 years, it's pupil dilation, slurred speech, all the obvious things," Walker explained.

Walker says he is often the first line of defense trying to prevent drivers from getting too intoxicated to hit the road. A new proposed bill is trying to make this a legal requirement at every bar in California. "The more you're educated about responsible alcohol use and service, the less DUI's you are going to get," he said. "Cutting them off sooner, making sure they got rides."

Under the proposal bartenders would have to take a four-hour class, teaching them intervention techniques and the impact of alcohol on the body. "A lot of bartenders take for granted," bartender William Whitehurst explained. "They don't think necessarily how somebody gets home, that's just the progression, they are going down the street."

While many bars say they are all for it, DUI attorneys say they are skeptical about the results. "So, the bartender cuts somebody off, they are obviously impaired. Is the bartender now responsible to call a taxi to take the guy's keys," attorney Scott Levy asked. "Where does it end?"

Bartenders would need to complete the class within three months of being hired and retake it every 3 years.

If they don't, the bar could have its liquor license pulled. "You are going to have prosecutors abuse this law and say 'well the bartender did not do his job, he did not police his bar,'" Levy said.
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