Michael’s Law Goes Into Effect Today: Facts vs. Fiction About New Alcohol Law Requirements Under Michael's Law

July 1, 2016

With Michael’s Law going into effect today, I am getting a lot of calls from hospitality clients in a panic wanting to know what training and insurance requirements are necessary to become compliant with the new statute. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation being disseminated on our friendly World Wide Web by well-intentioned folks writing about the new law. I have read articles proclaiming that the law imposes new minimum age requirements for bartenders and servers in any establishment that serves alcohol, that all serving staff must satisfy mandatory minimum training requirements and that any business that sells alcohol will be required to carry liability insurance with mandatory limits. As an attorney specializing in the hospitality arena, I feel compelled to clarify what the law actually requires as opposed to the myths that are being circulated. Let us look at the FACT vs. FICTION of what is being said about Michael’s Law.

  1. Michael’s Law increases the minimum age for servers/bartenders/bouncers at all businesses that sell alcohol.

    FICTION (with a little FACT): Under Michael’s law, there is now a requirement that all bouncers must be at least 21 years of age. O.C.G.A. § 3-3-24.1. Bouncers are defined as “individual(s) primarily performing duties related to verifying age for admittance, security, maintaining order, or safety, or a combination thereof.” As such, to be clear, under Michael’s law there is a new requirement that, regardless of the type of establishment (restaurant, bar, nightclub, etc.), any person performing the duties of a bouncer must now be at least 21 years of age.

    Michael’s Law also prohibits minors from entering into bars without a parent, guardian or spouse who is over 21 years old. One impact of this prohibition would appear to be a new minimum age requirement for all employees of a bar (at least 21 years). A “bar” is defined under the new statute as a “retailer [who] . . . derives 75 percent or more total annual gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises.” O.C.G.A. § 3-1-2. This is an important distinction that should be noted before restaurants start firing all of their 18-year-old servers. Michael’s Law does not change the minimum age for servers and bartenders (18 years old) at restaurants. It only references bars.
  2. Michael’s Law prohibits minors from entering into bars without a parent or guardian.

    FACT: As referenced above, this is true. Under Michael’s law, it is now illegal for any individual under the age of 21 to enter or be allowed into a bar unless he or she is accompanied by his or her parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years of age or older. There is an exception, however, for individuals who have paid to attend a live musical concert or live arts performance.
  3. Michael’s Law requires all establishments with an alcohol license to provide training to all bouncers, bartenders, servers and license holders.

    FICTION: While the proponents sought to include training requirement provisions in the law, there are no such provisions in the House Bill that was ultimately signed by the Governor.
  4. Michael’s Law makes it illegal for any business with an alcohol license to operate without a minimum limit of liability insurance.

    FICTION: I always highly recommend carrying liability insurance.  However, this is not a part of Michael’s Law as it has been enacted.

Having addressed the most common misperceptions about the law, there are a few more provisions worth mentioning. In addition to the change in age requirements of bouncers and bar employees, and access to bars by minors, Michael’s Law also imposes a duty upon bar owners and local governments to notify the Department of Revenue (the entity that issues state alcohol licenses) of any disciplinary action taken against its licensee, an employee or any person holding an interest in the business of the licensee. A strict reading of the statute would suggest that this requirement only applies to bars as defined above and not to other licensed establishments. However, regardless of the interpretation of Michael’s Law in this regard, it should be noted that the duty to notify has been an obligation in existence for all alcohol retailers for years under Department of Revenue Regulation 560-2-2-.32. Unlike Michael’s Law (which gives retailers 45 days to provide the notice), the Revenue regulation only allows for 15 days within which to provide notice. The main difference with Michael’s Law is that it now imposes an obligation on the local jurisdictions to implement procedures to notify the Department of such disciplinary actions as well. Michael’s law also provides more guidance with respect to the state fines that may be levied (up to $750 for a first violation) for failure to notify. Finally, Michael’s Law prohibits the manufacture, use or sale of powdered alcohol (except for limited exceptions for bona fide research).

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