If you’re here, then you’re probably wondering “How do I become a bartender in Washington?“, but don’t know where to start.
In this article, we’ll cover what qualifications and certifications you’ll need in order to be a bartender, how to become a first-time bartender, and what you should expect to make as a bartender.
Bartending can be an exciting and rewarding career with many opportunities for people of all ages. Whether you bartend part-time while you go to school, at your favorite nightclub or brewery, or even on a cruise ship, your skills will always be in demand no matter where you go.
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What certifications do I need in Washington to bartend?
To work as a bartender in Washington, you must obtain two required certifications: a Class 12 Mixologist permit and a food handlers card.
To obtain a permit, you’ll need to complete an online Mandatory Alcohol Server Training course through a provider approved by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB).
You’ll also need to obtain a Food Worker Card to serve alcoholic beverages in Washington. There is only one authorized online Washington State Food Worker Course (link above), so be sure to not take it through any other provider.
Class 12 Mixologist Permit
The Class 12 permit is required for anyone who is 21 or older who sells or serves alcohol.
With a Class 12 permit, you can:
- Manage retail licensed premises to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption;
- Sell, mix, or draw alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption;
- Supervise a Class 13 permit holder; and
- A Class 12 permit includes all authorities granted under a Class 13 permit.
Can you bartend under 21 in Washington?
No, you cannot bartend in Washington if you’re under 21.
Roughly 33 states allow bartenders to mix and serve alcohol under the age of 21. Washington however, requires bartenders to be at least 21. If you are between 18 and 20, you’ll need what is called a Class 13 permit. This allows you to take and deliver alcohol orders, but not mix or sell alcohol.
Class 13 MAST Permit
The Class 13 permit is required for alcohol servers who are between 18 and 20.
With a Class 13 permit, you can:
- Take orders for alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption;
- Deliver alcoholic beverages to customers for on-premises consumption; and
- Open or pour beer or wine into a customer’s glass at a customer’s table.
How long does it take to get a bartending license in Washington state?
Mandatory Alcohol Server Training takes a minimum of 3 hours to complete. After completing the training, your training provider is required to report your training status to the WSLCB and mail your permit to you within 30 days.
Depending on when your provider mails the permit, you could expect to see it as soon as one week or as late as 30 days.
What qualifications do I need to be a bartender?
To become a bartender in Washington, you’ll need to have the minimum requirements required by the state, in most cases at least one year of experience, and a combination of skills and abilities that are essential for the position. Below is a list of some of the requirements, experience, skills, and abilities you’ll need to get hired as a bartender:
- At least 21 years old;
- Valid ID (driver’s license or passport);
- Mandatory Alcohol Server Training (MAST Permit);
- Food handlers card; and
- At least a high school diploma or GED.
- Prior experience in hospitality or food and beverage position;
- Bartending school (optional);
- 1 to 2 years experience for high-end bars/restaurants; and
- In some cases, no experience in entry-level bartending positions.
- Good communication skills;
- Exceptional customer service skills;
- Maintaining inventory and processing payments;
- Ability to stand for long periods; and
- Knowledge of mixology for traditional and creative cocktails.
How do I start working as a bartender?
If you’ve never bartended before and are trying to find out a way to get started, there are a few paths you could take. Consider the following:
Attend a bartending school:
Attending bartending school is not a requirement, but can teach an aspiring or inexperienced bartender the basics of mixing drinks, managing an establishment, and serving alcoholic beverages to customers safely. In addition to training, some bartending schools offer help with job placement.
Attending bartending school can be somewhat controversial. Some experienced bartenders feel it is pointless, claiming you’ll likely get on-the-job training from the establishment you end up working at. In addition, they usually cost a few hundred dollars, which can be outright impossible for some.
Our opinion is that attending bartending school can’t hurt and a certificate from a bartending school could help in showing a higher level of interest to potential employers.
Below is a list of popular bartending schools in Washington:
Work your way up:
This is the more traditional route for most bartenders. Even with a certificate from a bartending school, you’re not guaranteed a job as a bartender. You will still need to gain experience in a bar or restaurant setting as a waiter or runner before advancing to a bartending role.
Work as a barback:
Similar to gaining experience as a waiter before advancing to a bartender, working as a barback is a great way to transition to a bartender. A barback works closely with a bartender, restocking the essentials so that the bartender can continuously take and fulfill drink orders without stopping to restock any missing inventory. Experience as a barback is especially valuable experience since you can learn the tools of the trade from veteran bartenders before assuming the role yourself.
Working as a barback requires no prior experience.
How do I land my first bartending job?
There is a high probability that you’ll need to work your way up to being a bartender, especially if the bar you want to work at is popular.
You could look through ads on websites like craigslist or other job posting sites, but the best approach is to get out in person and apply to bars you want to work at. Make sure you don’t come during busy hours. If you have time for a drink and a chance to make a friend with the bartender, even better!
Resume and cover letter:
According to Dave Allread, owner of BarPatrol.net, an online bartending course, your best chance at getting hired will NOT be walking in and asking for an application. Dave recommends that you create a resume and cover letter and drop them off in person to the manager.
It doesn’t stop there! Make sure to follow up multiple times with the bars you dropped your resume off with. You are selling yourself and selling requires follow-ups!
If they’ve not explicitly told you “no”, keep following up with them and bring backup resumes and cover letters in case your original was misplaced.
What should a first-time bartender know?
Whether you are working at a bar, winery, or brewery, you should always be familiar with the products you sell. Learning about whiskies, cocktails, styles of beers, or wine varietals is essential. As a bartender, you’ll be asked for recommendations, required to create cocktails on the spot, or offer wine or food depending on what food it is being paired with.
Knowing about your drinks is vital. There are countless resources from cocktail books, and wine guides, to classes (like bartending school) and seminars that you can use to level up your knowledge.
One of the best resources for learning mixology is Youtube. There are tons of great channels to choose from to learn every drink imaginable. Our favorite, The Educated Barfly, has many great videos to choose from, like “50 Cocktails you NEED to know!”
A significant amount of a bartender’s job is centered around customer service. It also just so happens to be the best way for you to make tips!
Bartenders are jokingly referred to as therapists; hearing out stories from their patrons, listening to their complaints and life philosophies, or even coaching a patron through difficult life situations. Whatever the patron throws at you, the most important thing to remember is to make sure your guests have the best experience possible at your bar.
A few tips to keep in mind to give your patron the best customer service are to ask questions, be patient, and be attentive. Even if you are lacking in the mixology department, customer service will go a long way to make up for any lack of experience at tending bar that you may have.
Organization and time management skills:
There is a lot more that goes into bartending than just pouring drinks. Staying organized and developing habits that make you more efficient and effective will go a long way in a busy bar environment.
Whether you are putting the bottle back on the shelf in the correct spot, keeping your bar tools well organized and clean, or ensuring your service well is clean will make sure you’re not wasting your time or your team’s time.
Good communication with your coworkers and maintaining a calm demeanor go a long way in a hectic work environment. Bars can be challenging to work during busy hours. Rude or drunk customers, cramped spaces, and loud music can lead to higher stress levels and a higher likelihood of conflict.
Working together as a team and holding up your end of responsibilities ensures everyone can put their focus into providing the best possible customer service.
Steps to Become a Bartender
Step 1: Meet the age requirement. You must be at least 21 years old to become a bartender in Washington.
Step 2: Obtain a high school diploma or GED. While this is not a requirement, it can improve your chances of getting hired as a bartender.
Step 3: Complete a Mixology training course approved by the LCB to obtain a Class 12 Mixologist permit.
Step 4: Consider attending a bartending school to obtain training and certification.
Step 5: Apply for bartending jobs at local bars and restaurants. It is essential to have a good understanding of customer service and be able to work well under pressure.
Step 6: Maintain your Class 12 Mixologist permit by completing any required continuing education or renewal courses.
Frequently Asked Questions
To bartend in Washington state, you’ll need to have a Class 12 MAST Permit. You can get a Washington state MAST permit online or through in person classes. Find a class
No. You must be at least 21 to bartend in Washington state.
The Mandatory Alcohol Server Training takes a minimum of 3 hours to complete. The physical MAST permit takes a maximum of 30 days to arrive by mail.
At a minimum, you’ll need a Class 12 MAST permit, a food handlers card, a valid ID or passport, and at least a high school diploma or GED.
Becoming a bartender in Washington requires certain qualifications, experience, and certifications, including a Class 12 Mixologist permit obtained after completing the Mandatory Alcohol Server Training.
Bartending schools and gaining experience as a barback or waiter are popular ways to get started in the industry. While bartending school is not necessary, it can be beneficial in teaching the basics of mixing drinks and managing an establishment.
Knowing about the products you sell is essential, and good communication and exceptional customer service skills are also necessary. With the right training and experience, a career in bartending can be both exciting and rewarding, with many opportunities available for people of all ages.