You may mix the best cocktails. You may pour beers like a champion and change kegs in seconds. Your drink list may be a masterpiece, you may have taken the best bartending classes around, but you may still not have what you need to get a job. As legal liabilities societal attitudes change, more and more provinces are requiring certifications on responsible alcohol sales for bartenders, managers, and even event staff and liquor store employees.
Bartending Certifications are Handled by Province
Even where it’s not required by law, potential employers can still ask you to have one. Whether it’s a legal requirement or up to your employer, the good news is that none of these certifications are particularly difficult or time-consuming—the main issue is just knowing what you need where. Here’s a rundown of the certifications you need to serve alcohol in Canada.
There is no National Bartender Certification
Canada does not have a national card which allows you to bartend in all provinces. Instead, you must apply for a new certification in every province which you want to bartend.
Some Provinces Don’t Require Certification
In Nova Scotia (Serve Right), Quebec (Service In Action), New Brunswick (It’s Good Business), Saskatchewan (Serve It Right), and Newfoundland and Labrador (also It’s Good Business), there’s no legally mandatory certification to serve alcohol, but the programs listed above are “recommended,” and employers have a right to ask their bartenders to have them. They can be a little pricey, ranging from $30 for Saskatchewan’s Serve It Right to $89 for Quebec’s Service In Action. They all have an online option, as well as in-person seminars you can take (you can find dates and locations for those on the website for the certification you need, and employers and bartending schools sometimes host them.)
Some Provinces Require Certification
Mandatory is the word for Alberta’s ProServe, British Columbia’s Serve it Right, Manitoba’s Serve it Safe, Ontario’s Smart Serve, and Prince Edward Island’s It’s Our Business certifications. You sometimes have some wiggle-room on when to take them, with grace periods ranging from 30-60 days after you start work, but you will have to take them to legally serve alcohol anywhere in the province.
Cost and Time Requirements
All these courses involve a training manual and exam, all of them take about 4-6 hours to do online, and they all cost $25-40. If you aren’t into doing it online, all of these programs also exist as in-person seminars, in print, or both (for a little extra money.) In British Columbia, you may be able to use a certification from another province, and in Alberta you can sometimes register to have your old certification transferred–but in the others, you’ll have to take a new test if you move to a new province, and your employer may still want you to take it even if it’s not legally required.
Which is unfortunate, because the content of all the courses is pretty similar. They do cover some province-specific legal liability issues, but mostly, they all deal with things like seeing signs of intoxication, dealing with drunk and rowdy customers, knowing when and how to cut people off, and other issues that come with responsibly serving alcohol. Do study your materials, but the main thing all these exams are testing is good judgment, so if you have that you shouldn’t have any problems.
Certifications by Province
Alberta (ProServe) you can sometimes register to have your old certification transferred in Alberta.
British Columbia (Serve it Right) You may be able to use a certification from another province, and you can sometimes register to have your old certification transferred.
Manitoba (Serve it Safe)
New Brunswick (It’s Good Business)
Newfoundland and Labrador (also It’s Good Business)
Nova Scotia (Serve Right)
Ontario Smart Serve
Prince Edward Island It’s Our Business
Quebec (Service In Action) $89 for Quebec’s Service In Action. They all have an online option, as well as in-person seminars you can take (you can find dates and locations for those on the website for the certification you need, and employers and bartending schools sometimes host them.)
Saskatchewan (Serve It Right) $30
What Certification Provides You
All of these certifications come with a certificate or card, and if it’s mandatory in your province, health and safety inspectors may ask to see your certification if they come inspect your workplace. It’s a good idea to keep proof of your valid certification with you in your wallet whenever you’re at work. And most importantly, be safe and be aware.
We Offer Certifications for ALL Provinces.