How To Get a Bartending License in Wisconsin

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 23, 2023
  • Time to read: 4 min.

To become a bartender in Wisconsin, you’ll need a little more than just some drink-making skills. To get a job as a bartender, you will need to obtain your “operator’s license” (also called a “bartender’s license”) to serve alcohol. This license is easy to get, but it’s the golden ticket to bartending in Wisconsin. 

Keep reading to find out more about this bartending license and how to get one. We will cover everything you need to know to become a bartender in Wisconsin. 

Do You Need a License To Be a Bartender in Wisconsin?

Yes, Wisconsin is one of the U.S. states requiring all bartenders to have a license. You will need to get an operator’s license.

You will often hear this license referred to interchangeably as either an “operator’s license” or a “bartender’s license”. Both of these terms refer to the exact same thing, so don’t worry about needing to get multiple licenses to bartend in the state of Wisconsin! 

Requirements To Serve Alcoholic Beverages in Wisconsin

The requirements to serve alcoholic beverages in Wisconsin are pretty straightforward. You must be 18 years old or older and have a clean criminal history.

The most important requirement that must be met is obtaining the all-important operator’s license in Wisconsin. You must apply for the operator’s license in the municipality where you intend to work as a bartender (not necessarily your home municipality if they are different). Still, you are not required to be a Wisconsin resident. 

Depending on what kind of establishment you are planning on working in, you may be required to take additional training courses independently or as part of the onboarding process. These requirements will vary, but the main requirements for the state of Wisconsin are always the same. 

Responsible Beverage Server Training Courses for Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin takes the serving of alcoholic beverages seriously. This is why they have made it a requirement for all bartenders seeking an operator’s license to take a responsible beverage server training course. 

You can take one of these training courses in person or online at any of the approved locations listed on revenue.wi.gov. Several different vendors offer an approved course, so it should be easy to find one that you can fit into your life and take the next step toward your operator’s license. 

Qualifications To Get A WI Bartender License

To get your Wisconsin bartender’s (or operator’s license), you need to meet the following requirements: 

  • Be over the age of 18 
  • Never convicted of a felony or have a documented history of breaking the law. 
  • Complete an approved responsible beverage server training program
  • Pay any applicable fees required for the operator’s license 

Wisconsin’s DRAM Shop Law

A dram shop is identified as any establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold. This includes bars, taverns, restaurants, and nightclubs. 

The dram shop law in Wisconsin states that a dram shop is liable for the acts committed by an intoxicated customer if they are found to have overserved the customer who went on to cause harm. 

This is an important law to be aware of when you are serving alcohol in Wisconsin because you are responsible for deciding whether customers are intoxicated. 

How Long Does It Take To Get Your Bartending License in Wisconsin?

When you are just starting out as a bartender in Wisconsin, plan ahead for the process to take some time. The best thing to do is to obtain your operator’s license well before you hope to start interviewing for bartending jobs so you can make sure you have everything in place. 

You can usually complete your responsible beverage server course in a few days or weeks, depending on when it’s scheduled. Then you just need to submit the application for the license in person. You can probably get the process completed in a few weeks or a month at most. 

How Much Do Bartenders Make in Wisconsin Hourly?

Bartenders in Wisconsin are required to be paid a minimum of the tipped minimum wage rate in the state, which is $7.25. You will earn tips on top of that hourly rate, so depending on the establishment you are working in, you may make significantly more than that per hour. 

Do Bartenders Make a Lot of Money in Tips in Wisconsin?

The tips you make as a bartender will vary quite a bit from the establishment to establishment and even from shift to shift at the same bar. 

For example, bartenders who work on weekend nights usually make more than those who work on weekday day shifts. This is just because the weekend nights are usually busier at most establishments that serve alcohol. 

Bartenders make an average of $150 per shift in tips. This is a national average, so you may have shifts where you make much more or much less than this, but you can expect approximately $150 in tips per shift on top of your hourly wage.