Can Bartenders Drink On The Job? (The Honest Truth)

are bartenders allowed to drink on the job
Joe | Last Updated: November 27, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Bartending is a job role that involves serving drinks at a bar and interacting with paying customers.

Bars are often busy on evenings and weekends with people looking to unwind after a busy week of work with an alcoholic drink.

Needless to say, bartending is a skilled profession that involves preparing and serving beer, wine, cocktails, and just about all alcoholic beverages.

It’s a popular job role that is ideal for students looking to make new friends and network as well as those looking for a well-paying side job, but it’s not so good for those looking for a more sober lifestyle.

Being around alcohol at work can be challenging for some, which brings up an interesting topic that we’re going to cover in this post “Can bartenders drink on the job?”

No, for the most part, bartenders are NOT allowed to drink on the job. Most states have laws and regulations that prevent licensed bartenders from drinking alcohol on the job. Being caught doing so could lead to dismissal and prosecution.

Let’s get into it…

Can Bartenders Drink On The Job?

Whilst working a busy bar can be stressful at times, it’s still very much against the law in most states to have an alcoholic drink whilst serving alcohol.

Whilst drinking on the job is illegal in some states, there are other countries outside of the US where drinking as a bartender is very much normal and accepted.

In the UK for example, it’s very normal for bartenders to be enjoying a couple of drinks whilst serving alcohol on a Friday or Saturday night.

Many customers will actually tip bartenders and buy themselves and the bartender a drink. “And one for yourself” is an expression used regularly in UK bars which means my drink and whatever you are having.

are bartenders allowed to drink on the job
Photo by Kobby Mendez on Unsplash

That said, it largely depends on the bar or place of work as to whether you will be allowed to drink alcohol as a bartender, some landlords are stricter than others when it comes to drinking on the job, and for good reason.

A drink after hours is much more likely. I’ve worked in many bars over the years both in the states and the UK where an after-work drink is customary.

After the clean-down and when the bar is nice and tidy, management may offer all staff to unwind with a beverage before heading home, so long as they’re not driving of course.

>>Read more: can a bartender take your keys?

Why Drinking Is Not Allowed While Working A Bar

Whilst having a cheeky drink or two at work may seem like lighthearted fun, it can present a range of issues that is simply not worth dealing with as a bar owner.

Depending on your location and the bar this may come with some unexpected consequences and can lead to a disaster if bartenders are not careful.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why bartenders may not be allowed to drink while working a bar:


The legal alcohol drinking age in the US is 21, but it’s legal to work in a bar at the age of 19. This means that there may be bartenders working who are not yet of the legal age to consume alcohol.

Therefore, these individuals would not be allowed to drink on the job as they are under the legal drinking age.


Whilst working as a bartender and serving alcohol there are a lot of laws and regulations that can be violated and need to be taken into consideration.

Bar licenses are often tricky to get and involve jumping through a lot of hoops, therefore, bar owners do not want to risk having this taken away from them by illegally permitting bar staff to drink whilst working.

Depending on the state you work in you may not be allowed to drink any alcohol whilst serving as a bartender, so be sure to check this with management before proceeding to have a drink.

However, in some states such as California, the decision of drinking behind a bar is left up to bar management so they may permit doing so.


Not only can drinking behind the bar whilst on shift be illegal, but it can come across as very unprofessional in many establishments.

Bartenders do not always serve in bars and may work in hotels, resorts, clubs, and other establishments where a bartender drinking on the job can be seen as unprofessional.

In such establishments, it’s important to remain professional as there may be exclusive customers paying lots of money for memberships or visits to the hotel/resort.

Bartenders drinking on the job can ruin a business’s reputation and make the difference from a customer returning or leaving a bad review.


Whilst I’m all for having fun when working the bar, who wants to be served by a bartender who is clearly drunk and making a lot of mistakes?

Mixing cocktails can be difficult enough sober, never mind after a couple of cheeky rum and cokes. There are many mistakes that can be made if a bartender has one too many drinks.

Spilling drinks, getting orders wrong, and being rude to customers are all possibilities when bars allow staff to drink on the job.


One reason why many alcohol-serving establishments do not allow their bartenders to drink on the job is that it can sometimes lead to theft from bad bartenders.

I’ve worked in a few different bars where theft has been rife and it is often linked with bartenders having a little too much to drink and either pouring themselves one too many drinks or short-changing customers.

This behavior is absolutely not tolerated as a bartender and will lead to instant dismissal from the role. Routine stock checks are part of running a successful bar and allowing staff to drink on the job can lead to a lot of missing alcohol.

>> Read more: Why do bartenders drink Fernet?

Is It Legal To Drink And Serve Alcohol In Your State?

Whilst drinking alcohol on the job can come with some downsides for bar owners, it can also come with the upside of keeping staff happy and enjoying their work.

bartender serving drinks
Photo by Stanislav Ivanitskiy on Unsplash

It’s often bars that are run by a tight-knit team that allows their staff to drink on the job as management has full trust in their staff.

Although some states ban drinking alcohol and serving alcohol altogether, other states have a more relaxed approach and leave the decision up to the landlord.

Your line manager will likely give you the rundown of the law in your state on your first day, but you can check out this summation from for more information.

Always be sure that you are on the right side of the law when it comes to drinking as a bartender. Don’t take any risks for the sake of a drink… it’s not worth your job or prosecution.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a clear answer to “Can bartenders drink on the job” and understand some of the reasons why many states ban this altogether.

The answer really is it depends. But most states will NOT allow bartenders to drink on the job, whereas some states will leave it up to the discretion of the bar landlords.

If allowed to do so, there is nothing wrong with having a drink or two whilst working, just make sure to not go overboard and ensure you’re in a fit state to serve customers.

Drinking on the job can lead to a lot of issues for bars which include having their license reviewed, dismissing staff, or having to deal with theft.

That said, there are some states where this decision is left up to the bar management, and establishments in these states typically have a more relaxed approach.

While drinking on the job may present some issues, it can also be a great way to keep staff happy and loosen up the conversation between bartender and customer.

In the states that do not allow drinking on the job, having a drink after the shift is often customary and allows staff to debrief and talk about the shift while having a drink.

In summary, it all depends on the bar, the landlords as well as the location of the bar as to whether bartenders are allowed to drink on the job.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll catch you in the next one!