There’s a saying that if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere, which certainly applies to hospitality industry jobs.
Before you read any further, unlike many other places, as of 2022, there is no requirement for holding a licence to bartend in the state of New York. That said, having a certification from a recognized school for ATAP will help your chances of landing a job in New York.
Do You Need a License to Bartend in New York?
No, you do not need a license to bartend in New York state or the City of New York, and the only legal requirements are that you be of age (18 to serve) and have no felony convictions.
Even if you have a felony conviction, you can apply for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities that will still allow you to work with one. However, remember that getting a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities takes about two years.
New York’s drinking age is 21, but you can start working in a bar at 18.
How Do You Get Certified to Bartend in NYC?
In New York State, two voluntary programs cover alcohol serving.
- TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS)
- ATAP (Alcohol Training Awareness Program)
When researching this topic, there seemed to be a bit of confusion between the two as they seem to cover similar things and even are used interchangeably.
New York State’s Liquor Authorities (NYSLA) has a voluntary ATAP training program and an additional TIPS supplement. If you get TIPS, there is a separate Certificate of Completion.
If you want to find a school that will certify you for ATAP, there’s a website here that lists the schools.
It’s now becoming the norm for New York employers in the restaurant and bar, liquor store and gaming industries to hire only those who are New York TIPS/ATAP certified.
One reason employers are looking for certification is that NYSLA also takes alcohol training into account for lawsuit liabilities, meaning ATAP training could keep you safe should a customer do something unwise.
If you did your alcohol sales program elsewhere, you’d find much of the material covered is similar. Topics include:
- Spotting would-be underage drinkers
- How to cut service to intoxicated patrons
- How to provide a safe environment for your guests
- Know what New York licensing and liquor laws apply to your business
What is TIPS?
TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) training programs are for servers and sellers of alcoholic beverages at licensed establishments such as restaurants, bars, liquor stores and gaming industries. In New York, it’s an additional certification that you can obtain at several private schools or online.
- TIPS Certification is valid for three years.
- The training is available online and in-classroom.
- Training takes around 3-4 hours to complete.
TIPS is recognized nationwide, so you should consider it if you plan to work in different states. You can find information on the training on their website.
We’ve written a full article on TIPS certification questions here too.
Is It Hard To Be a Bartender NYC?
As the saying about making it in New York City goes, you must be good to make it in the first place. The completion is intense, and the level of expectation and the competition in the market for bartenders is astronomically high in cities like New York.
If you’re just getting started, some people advise beginning by getting a job at a restaurant. Being a bartender at a restaurant is less demanding, and managers can be less picky.
As we’ve covered in other articles, a certificate from a bartending school alone will not get you a job. As one former bartending school owner said, “The most important thing you will get from bartending school is the ability to make drinks quickly.”
One overlooked thing is learning the POS (Point Of Sales) systems used in restaurants and bars; half your speed is knowing how to work them. You’ll probably come across systems: Toast POS, Lightspeed, ShopKeep, Epos and Square.
If you’re going to New York City for school, you might try it, but with slim experience and no connections, it will be difficult at best for you to secure a position. If you don’t have “NYC experience”, consider looking for work at a restaurant or even applying as a barback until you build up the connections and experience to work up to it.
Getting a job as a bartender in New York City takes a lot of work and maybe some luck.
While you might not need a license to work in bars in New York, getting a TIPS or ATAP certificate can help you land a job as a bartender in NYC.
If you are interested in taking a course, we’ve got a guide here to bartending schools in New York City.
If you’re interested in bartending in other American states, we’ve written an article about bartending requirements across America here.