Can You Work as a Barback at 18?

Navigating the hospitality industry can be a rewarding yet complex journey, especially for young individuals eager to kick-start their careers. One of the gateway positions into this bustling world is that of a barback. Essentially, a barback supports the bartending team, handling a variety of behind-the-scenes tasks such as stocking the bar, cleaning, and assisting with basic drink preparations. For many, it’s a desirable stepping stone toward becoming a bartender. But a common question that arises is: Can you work as a barback at 18?

The Legal Age for Barback Employment

The short answer is yes, you can work as a barback at 18 in many locations, but it’s essential to understand that the legal working age for barbacks, and any position serving alcohol, can vary significantly based on local laws and regulations. In the United States, the minimum age to serve alcohol differs from state to state, ranging typically from 18 to 21 years. Therefore, an 18-year-old can legally work as a barback in several states, provided that the role does not require them to serve alcohol directly to customers.

In regions where the legal age to serve alcohol is 18, young adults may find more opportunities to work as barbacks, potentially even getting the chance to advance to bartending positions. However, in states with a higher age limit, individuals aged 18 might be restricted to non-alcoholic tasks until they reach the legal age for serving alcohol.

Understanding Local Laws and Employer Policies

It’s crucial for aspiring barbacks to thoroughly research and understand the specific laws governing alcohol service in their area. This research should go beyond just state laws and include local city or county regulations, which might have stricter guidelines. Moreover, prospective barbacks should be aware that individual establishments often have their own policies that might be more restrictive than local laws. Some bars, clubs, or restaurants may choose only to hire barbacks who are 21 or older, regardless of the minimum legal age, due to company policies, insurance requirements, or a preference for a more mature team.

Getting Started as a Barback at 18

If you’ve determined that you can legally work as a barback at your age in your location, the next step is to prepare yourself for the job. This might include obtaining necessary certifications, like a food handler’s permit or an alcohol serving license, if required in your area. Emphasizing any relevant experience, even if it’s from volunteer work or school events, can help make your application stand out. Additionally, demonstrating a strong work ethic, eagerness to learn, and resilience can significantly appeal to potential employers.

Beginning your career in the hospitality industry as a barback at 18 presents an excellent opportunity to learn the nuances of bartending and the wider world of hospitality. It’s a job that demands hard work, keen observation, and the ability to work efficiently under pressure. But for those who are passionate about the industry and committed to advancing their careers, starting as a barback can be an invaluable experience.


In conclusion, while the legal age restrictions and specific duties of barbacks can vary greatly depending on location, it is indeed possible to embark on this path at 18 in many regions. By understanding local regulations, adhering to state and employer rules, and preparing adequately for the role, young adults can step confidently into the realm of hospitality, gaining essential skills and experience that will serve them well in their future careers.