How To Become a Bartender in Illinois

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: March 3, 2024
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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Are you considering a move to good old Illinois? Or are you interested in trying your hand at a career in bartending? In either case, you will need to know the answer to the question, “Do bartenders need a license in Illinois?”.

Yes, 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 jurisdictional. 

You can take your BASSET training online from state-approved trainers, including 360Training.

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 and 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 required course, whether 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. 

You can get your BASSET certification online through 360Training.

What Does This Mean?

The above requirements mean that Illinois has set a minimum baseline for jurisdictions to work with regarding 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. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission also has a good list of frequently asked questions here.

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?

To become a bartender in Illinois, besides 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 likely do a criminal background check to determine your eligibility.

How Much Do Bartenders Make Hourly in Illinois?

According to Indeed and Intuit Mint’s data, the average salary for a Bartender in Illinois is $14.90 or $27,000 per year as of 2023. 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).

Some good cities for bartenders to work in Illinois are:

  • Chicago: As the largest city in Illinois, Chicago offers numerous opportunities for bartenders. It has a thriving nightlife scene, a diverse culinary landscape, and a constant influx of tourists and residents looking for quality dining and entertainment experiences.
  • Springfield: As the capital city of Illinois, Springfield has a mix of bars, pubs, and restaurants that cater to locals, government workers, and visitors. The city offers a more laid-back atmosphere compared to larger urban areas.
  • Champaign-Urbana: Home to the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana has a vibrant nightlife centred around the student population. The city boasts a range of bars, pubs, and clubs that cater to a younger demographic.

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 of 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!

Bartending In Illinois FAQ

Here are some questions people also ask about becoming a bartender in Illinois.

What is the Illinois bartending license?

A bartending license, also known as a Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET) certification, is a credential that individuals in Illinois must obtain to legally serve and sell alcoholic beverages in establishments such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores.

Who needs a bartending license in Illinois?

Anyone who serves, sells, or handles alcoholic beverages in Illinois must obtain a bartending license. This includes bartenders, servers, bar managers, and other personnel selling and serving alcoholic beverages.

How do I obtain a bartending license in Illinois?

To obtain a bartending license in Illinois, you must complete a BASSET training course approved by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC). The course can be taken in person or online through certified training providers. After completing the course, you will receive a certificate of completion as your bartending license.
You can get your BASSET certification online through 360Training.

Do you need a bartender license in Chicago?

Yes, a bartender license (BASSET certification) is required in Chicago as it is part of the state of Illinois. The BASSET certification is necessary for anyone serving, selling, or handling alcoholic beverages in Chicago.

How often do I need to renew my bartending license in Illinois?

The bartending license (BASSET certification) in Illinois is valid for three years. After three years, you must renew your license by completing a recertification course. The recertification course is shorter than the initial training and serves as a refresher to update your knowledge on responsible alcohol service practices.

Can I work as a bartender without a bartending license in Illinois?

No, it is illegal to serve or sell alcoholic beverages without a valid bartending license in Illinois. Employers are required by law to ensure that all personnel involved in alcohol service possess a valid BASSET certification.

Can I transfer my bartending license from another state to Illinois?

Illinois does not have a direct license transfer process for bartenders certified in other states. However, some training providers may offer an expedited course or additional training options for individuals with a valid alcohol service certification from another state. Checking with the ILCC-approved training providers for specific guidance in such cases is recommended.

Can you bartend at 18 in Illinois?

Yes, you can start serving drinks at the state level at 18 in Illinois.
However, some cities, such as Chicago, require you to be 21. (source)

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.