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The most common question I get from TABC certification online and on-site students

May 13, 2014
Bartender passing beer to patron

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is fielding questions from students of my TABC certification online and on-site courses. This not only gives us the opportunity to delve further into the law, but also to think about best practices and what policies could be instituted to ensure you follow the law, protect yourself and your employer, and provide great service at the same time.

The most common question I get when I teach a TABC certification online or on-site course pertains to whether or not a minor can be served and/or consume alcohol in a restaurant if they are drinking with their parents. For the legal answer, let’s look at what the TABC says:
“A minor may possess and consume alcohol when in the visible presence of their legal aged parent, legal guardian, or spouse.” 
So what’s the answer? The answer is it depends. Please note that the TABC’s statement does not say it’s legal for a minor to purchase alcohol even if they’re in the visible presence of their legal-aged parent. I take this to mean the alcohol would need to be purchased by and served to the parent, who can then serve their child if they wish. I am not an attorney and could certainly be wrong about that, but that is how I interpret the TABC’s statement. You also have to note how the TABC says the minor must be in the “visible presence” of their legal aged parent. This means exactly what you think it means: The parent and child must remain in the visible presence of one another, or else the minor can not possess or consume alcohol in your establishment.
Here’s the bottom line: This scenario is very common in restaurants and quite frankly, it presents a huge hassle for the establishment while offering very little benefit. Not only do you have to verify the relationship between the parent and child, which can be surprisingly difficult, but you have to ensure the minor remains in the visible presence of their parent the entire time. And what do you do if the parent goes to the restroom or goes outside for a phone call? Do you take the alcohol away? What happens if the minor drove him or herself to the restaurant? It is absolutely illegal for a minor to drive with any alcohol in their system whatsoever, so what is your legal obligation if you know a minor is driving while under the influence of alcohol? These are all serious questions that will take up a substantial amount of your time during a busy shift, and this additional effort probably isn’t making you any more money. It’s certainly not worth the extra dollar in gratuity you would make off the $6.00 beer the parent ordered for their kid. Just because the TABC says a minor can possess and consume alcohol under certain circumstances, it doesn’t mean your employer is forced to do it. It’s far more efficient and safe for you, your employer, and the minor if your restaurant has a zero-tolerance policy for minors consuming alcohol in your establishment. That’s my two cents.
TABC On The Fly is an official, state-approved provider of on-site and online TABC certification created by Dustin Meyers, a restaurant industry veteran. 
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