How To Become a Bartender in Illinois

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: March 5, 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Considering a move to good old Illinois? Or interested in trying your hand at a career in bartending? Well, in either case, you will need to know the answer to the question, “do bartenders need a license in Illinois?”.

In any country across Illinois, you must hold a Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) certification to serve alcohol due to the 2018 BASSET law. The specifications of what the BASSET entails and how it must be conducted are determined jurisdictionally. 

Becoming a bartender in the US can be confusing as the rules and regulations vary across states and in the case of Illinois, even from one jurisdiction to the next. That’s why we’ve built this guide to bartending in Illinois so you can navigate the system as efficiently as possible. Read on for all the information you need to know.  

Who Can Serve Alcohol in Illinois?

Illinois is a midwestern state bordered by the beautiful Mississippi River. It’s famous for its role in the Underground Railroad, as well as for being the first home to McDonald’s and the renowned Route 66. 

Illinois is also home to Chicago, America’s third-largest city by population. Chicago is filled with fantastic buildings, many of which house some of the country’s most wonderful restaurants and bars. So, how does one go about working in one of these many places? 

Serving Alcohol in Illinois

The alcohol licensing requirements in Illinois are jurisdictional. However, as of July 1, 2018, Illinois requires each jurisdiction to have some degree of licensing according to the Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) Certification Law. 

What Is Determined by the Jurisdiction?

The relevant jurisdiction stipulates the specifications of the BASSET; these include the following:

  • The required curriculum
  • Whether the training is conducted online or in-person
  • The time frame required for the BASSET to be completed 
  • How long is the license valid before renewal 

What Is BASSET? 

Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) is simply the training requirement for any alcohol servers in Illinois. 

There are several options for completing the necessary course, whether that is online, in-person at a designated premise, or even a combination of both. 

It takes roughly four hours to complete and includes information on topics such as the following:

  • Prevention of DUIs and alcohol-related injuries and fatalities
  • Reducing (with the goal of stopping) any sale of alcohol to underage persons
  • Understanding state laws and jurisdictional requirements
  • How to spot intoxication in individuals and groups and how to intervene in situations where intervention is required 

The default or minimum requirements of the BASSET are the following:

  • All new hires must hold their certification within 120 days of their hiring. 
  • All Illinois BASSET cardholders must renew their certification once every three years.
  • Any persons serving alcohol, as well as any bouncers who check ID are required to have their BASSET certification. 

What Does This Mean?

The above requirements mean that Illinois has set a minimum baseline for jurisdictions to work with when it comes to the BASSET. Thus, your jurisdiction may alter certain aspects of the BASSET qualification, but it must meet these requirements.

You can visit the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s website to check out the specifications for your jurisdictions.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Bartender in Illinois?

The BASSET course is four hours long, covering the broad scope of information you may need throughout your experience serving alcohol in Illinois. 

You can sign up for the courses on the American Safety Council’s website

You will notice that there are three options for the BASSET. You can choose from an on-premise course and certification costing $14.75. An off-premise course and certification also cost $14.75. Or a combined option includes the on-premise and off-premise BASSET course and certification for $19.75. 

Be sure to check with your employer before signing up to see if they require a specific option from the above. 

Are There Other Qualifications Needed To Become a Bartender in Illinois?

Other than the BASSET, you must be at least 18. However, you are more likely to be hired if you are over 21 simply for liability reasons. 

Your prospective employer will also likely do a criminal background check to determine your eligibility.

How Much Do Bartenders Make Hourly in Illinois?

According to Indeed, the average salary for a Bartender in Illinois is $16.56. However, this amount will vary according to several determining factors, including the establishment you are working at, the jurisdiction you are working within, and how personable and pleasant you are (when it comes to tips).

Tips for Starting a Career in Bartending

Starting a career in bartending can be intimidating particularly if you are new to a place or haven’t worked in the service industry before. 

Check What the BASSET Specifications Are for the Place You Are Applying

The restaurant or bar you are applying to may require that you complete the course in person or have their own BASSET system. To be sure, we recommend checking beforehand so you don’t waste your time and money. 

Additionally, sometimes, certain companies will pay for the certification for you, or else you will be able to expense it, so be sure to check on this aspect too!

Be Responsible

The BASSET is designed to teach and ensure that any person serving alcohol understands the responsibility that comes with doing so. So, in any interviews or online applications, make sure you stress how responsible you are. 

TIP: If you can provide concrete examples of how you are responsible or have been responsible in the past, your potential employers are more likely to remember and trust you!

Final Thoughts

Bartending in Illinois is a great gig. You can make good money, and there are ample excellent establishments to work for. Now that you know the answer to the question, “do bartenders need a license in Illinois?” you can start your bartending journey in Illinois. 

If you’re interested in bartending in other American states, we’ve written an article about bartending requirements across America here.