Bartending Laws in Florida

By Cathy Salustri
Bartenders have responsibilities that extend beyond mixing tasty drinks.

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Bartenders have a greater responsibility than pouring the perfect Manhattan or margarita; they also have legal guidelines that they must adhere to at all times. These rules, set by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, also provide penalties for both bartender and restaurant or bar for ignoring the law.

Legal Drinking Age

In Florida, the legal drinking age is 21. Not only may bartenders not serve anyone under 21, they cannot permit anyone else to serve persons under 21. Florida Statute 562.11 also prohibits giving or selling alcohol to anyone under 21.

Legally Bought Alcohol and Excise Taxes

Whoever buys the alcohol for a bar or restaurant, whether it's the bartender, owner, or manager, must pay an excise tax on the alcohol. Regular liquor stores do not charge an excise tax; licensed distributors and warehouses bonded by the state do. These are the only places where establishments with a liquor license may buy alcohol. It's a third-degree felony for a licensed establishment or person to have untaxed liquor in their possession. This means that if a restaurant owner buys alcohol illegally, the bartender is guilty as well, according to Florida Statute 565.12.

Refilling Bottles

Florida Statute 565.11 makes it illegal for a bartender to refill a liquor bottle. This means that a bartender may not "marry" or join two bottles of the same spirit. This is a second-degree misdemeanor; in addition, the establishment may lose its liquor license.

Selling Individual Drinks

Bartenders may only sell drinks for consumption on the premises. Florida Statute 565.06 says bartenders may only sell individual drinks.

Drink Size

Bartenders may not, according to Florida Statute 565.10, sell drinks that exceed 1.75 liters.

Letting Customers Bring Wine Home

If a customer orders a full meal and a bottle of wine, they may take the unfinished wine with them when they leave. The meal, according to Florida Statute 564.09, must have included bread, salad or vegetable, entree and a beverage. If the customer drank part of the bottle of wine, the bartender must reseal the bottle, put it in a bag, and attach the receipt for the meal and the wine to the bag.

Serving Non-Alcoholic Beverages

A bartender cannot serve a drink without alcohol in it unless the customer knows it doesn't have alcohol in it, says Florida Statute 562.061. The bartender also cannot serve a different type or brand of alcohol other than the one ordered without informing the customer.

Who Cannot Bartend

Florida Statute 562.13 prohibits certain people from bartending. Anyone convicted in the past five years of violating beverage laws in the United States, prostitution, pandering, allowing prostitution in an establishment, keeping a disorderly place, or violating a controlled substances act of any state or federal government may not bartend. Additionally, anyone convicted of a felony in the past five years may not bartend.

Moonshine Whiskey

Bartenders may not sell or possess moonshine whiskey. Florida Statute 562.451 defines moonshine whiskey as spirits not made in accordance with the laws that existed when the spirit was made. Having or selling less than a gallon of moonshine constitutes a second-degree misdemeanor; any more than that is a third-degree felony.

Curb Service

Florida Statute 562.452 makes drive-through or curbside bar service illegal. Bartenders may not serve alcohol outside the the bar or restaurant except for outdoor licensed areas.


Florida Statute 572.50 makes it a second-degree misdemeanor for a bartender to serve an alcoholic or drunk after the drinker's nearest relative gives the bartender written notice that alcohol is harming the drinker.

About the Author

Cathy Salustri started writing professionally in 1995. Salustri's work about Floridana, tourism and the environment appears in the "Gabber," "Southwinds Sailing" and Visit Florida Web and print publications. She is pursuing a Master of Arts in Florida studies at the University of South Florida, focusing on historic Florida tourist attractions.

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