Alcohol Servers Rush to Meet Certification Deadline

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COLUMBIA - Bartenders and clerks in Columbia must have a certificate to serve alcohol beginning Wednesday, Jan. 1.

The city council approved an ordinance in 2012 that requires anyone who serves alcohol to pass a training course and obtain certification. The council granted a one year grace period for employees to get their certificate. That grace period is over at the start of the year, meaning every liquor store clerk, grocery store checker, bartender and waiter in Columbia must have a certificate if they want to continue serving alcohol within city limits.

According to Andrea Waner, spokesperson for the Columbia/Boone County health department, more than 1,600 people have already received their certifications. That is four times as many people who were certified a little more than a month ago. Waner said the department attributes that increase in people to an ad campaign it started to remind people about the new ordinance.

"Yesterday [Monday] we saw 25 people before it was even 8:15 a.m. and we open at 8 a.m. Those were all people coming to get the card. People are realizing that the deadline is coming up," Waner said.

By New Year's Day, everyone must be in compliance with the law, otherwise business owners and alcohol servers run the risk of facing consequences. Waner said if somebody is selling or serving alcohol without a server card they may face suspension or revocation of their certificate, liquor license. In addition, they may face penalties in municipal court.

For some that won't be a problem. Lucas Carden, the general manager at Trumans Bar and Grill, said all of his employees have already taken the online course and received their server cards. Carden said the restaurant made it mandatory for all of its alcohol servers about three weeks ago. Carden also said the certification reinforces expectations Trumans' servers already practice.

"We don't have too much of a problem. Most of our waitresses do a real good job of that. With underage stuff, they kind of make it a game, whoever gets the most IDs wins...we made it a mandatory thing that if you serve an underage person you lose your job," Carden said.

The health department said it does expect to see more people obtaining their certification in the coming days. Waner said there is no way to tell how many more people still need it, since the number of employees that sell or serve alcohol in Columbia is quite high.