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Lawmakers considering changing the age requirement to serve alcohol

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Posted at 9:56 PM, Feb 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-15 21:56:36-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Have you ever been buying an alcoholic beverage at the grocery store and the employee isn’t even old enough to scan the item?

A bill at the statehouse would allow employees as young as 18 to ring up orders with alcohol. They would also be able to serve alcohol in restaurants.

This comes as the National Restaurant Association says 45% of operators need more employees to meet customer demands.

"Every store of mine could use another couple of employees,” Bradley Cohen, Co-Owner Arnie's Restaurants, said. “One thing is that this bill addresses is our crews are getting younger and younger. Every industry is dealing with that.”

Cohen says teenagers are the main people who apply. When it comes to serving alcohol, it puts restaurants in a pinch.

Ally Reagan has been a server for 11 years. She was one of the youngest servers when she first started, and she remembers the inconvenience of not being 19.

“I was only 17-years-old when I started so I still had two years to go before I could get my license to serve,” Reagan said. “I remember quite a few parties upstairs having to either ask the manager or another server. I felt bad making them go up and downstairs constantly.”

Senate Bill 146 would allow 18-year-olds to serve alcohol in restaurants if they complete the alcohol server training program. 43 other states allow this already.

While it might seem small, it’s something servers say will make restaurants workflows easier.

“It would allow more people to take on their own tables for alcohol services and not have to ask as many people to stop what they are doing to serve,” Reagan said.

The bill also gives a 10-minute grace period for 14 and 15-year-old employees. They must be clocked out by 7 p.m. during weekdays but this will allow restaurants to avoid fines.

However, Cohen is hopeful that in the future, lawmakers will allow teenagers to work later hours.

“We are supposed to stay open until 9 p.m., but at 7 p.m. I lose the 15-year-olds so that workforce is desperately needed,” Cohen said.

The bill originally would have expanded work hours for minors but was taken out due to not having support.

It now heads to the House floor.