Monday, September 23, 2019

Emergency! Your comments needed to stop racist ABC regulations

California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control was scheduled to end public comment TUESDAY, Sept. 24* on a new regulation that will negatively impact tens of thousands of legal immigrants and working-class people.

Here's the problem: If you want to be a restaurant server -- not a bartender, just a server -- in a place that serves alcohol, you will have to pass a written test devised by neo-Prohibition forces.

UPDATE: The assembly bill requires the course to be available, at a minimum, in Spanish and English.

I live in San Francisco. I'm not sure the last three restaurant servers I had could pass a written test in English -- or Spanish (I went to two Vietnamese family-owned restaurants and one Chinese). They might lose their jobs because of this regulation, which ABC projects to affect 1 million working Californians.

UPDATE: Thanks to a great blog post by beverage attorney John Hinman, the ABC extended the deadline at the last minute to Oct. 11, with an extremely defensive press release. More on that tomorrow. But the good news is, you have time to comment.

We need more time to comment. I will give the comment link below; here is a copy of Hinman's comment.

Let me stand up my high horse here, because I have a level of outrage unusual even for me:


We're not talking about restaurant license holders (though they will also need to pass this written test, along with restaurant managers.) We're talking about ANYONE who "takes customer alcoholic beverage orders." That server at your favorite noodle joint. That counter clerk at a taco joint that sells beer. ANYONE.

ABC itself estimates that 1 million Californians will need to take this test and get a 70% score. Or they have to find a different job.

Oh, and will these courses be free? NO THEY WILL NOT. ABC is planning to authorize third-party companies to offer these courses, if they pay a $1000 setup fee and a $250 annual renewal fee. We don't know what these third-party companies will charge aspiring servers to take this course.

We do know it's just another obstacle in the way of low-income people who might want to support themselves and their families. NOT ONLY ARE THESE REGULATIONS RACIST, THEY ARE CLASSIST.

Now, to be fair to ABC, it is trying to do a job handed to it by the legislature. In 2017, the legislature passed AB 1221, which required servers to take a "Responsible Beverage Training Program." It's the ABC's job to fill in the actual regulations around the legislature's mandate.

The problem is, in writing those regulations, ABC didn't talk with restaurateurs and wineries, Hinman said.

"They held workshops in the spring, with the quote, stakeholders, unquote," Hinman told me. "(ABC) didn't say who the stakeholders are."

Hinman says that while beverage attorneys like himself were not paying full attention, a variety of neo-Prohibitionist groups showed up to encourage ABC to write the rules in the most restrictive way possible. And that, so far, is the result.

One absurd part of the training is that restaurant servers must "Define what a stimulant is. Identify common stimulants. Identify signs of a patron being under the influence of a stimulant."

You there, dear reader: Just do that right now. Without looking it up, "Define what a stimulant is."

May I ask ABC what does that have to do with serving beer in a taco joint? Yes, it's possible that someone could come into a taco joint on crystal meth and ask for a beer. Would you really need to define what a stimulant is to know that somebody twitching and jumping around might not be the best customer?

Restaurant servers will also have to be able to explain "How the human body processes alcohol." Is this REALLY necessary? Can you do this? It goes through the liver: that's all I know.

Another issue is ex-cons. It's already difficult for people to find jobs after they have paid their debt to society. Working as a restaurant server is one of the better-paying paths open to ex-cons. But ABC's existing policy on ex-cons, Carr said, is, "ABC will not issue a license to someone who has not been rehabilitated." What does it mean to be rehabilitated? Isn't there a greater societal good to having ex-cons working with a decent chance of making a living?

I know it will make a lot of anti-immigrant people happy that ABC will keep a database of registered servers. It will be much, much harder for illegal immigrants to work as restaurant servers after these regulations go into effect.

But as Hinman points out, is this database REALLY necessary? We're talking about restaurant servers. Couldn't the restaurants just keep their information on file? In addition to privacy issues, this greatly expands the state bureaucracy, at taxpayer expense.

I'm not going to get into the illegal immigrant issue. I have plenty of outrage about the needs of LEGAL immigrants being ignored. As someone who has family and a lot of friends for whom English is a second language, I'm outraged. You can tell. WRITTEN TESTS ARE HARD. They're hard for a lot of Americans for whom English is a first language.

Hinman is less outraged about this than I am. His clients are in the beverage industry. Wineries generally dislike regulations that slow wine sales, which this will. But he encourages the training of servers in every restaurant, stadium, hotel, etc.

Me, I think about the people from whom I usually buy noodles, trying to pass a test about how the body processes alcohol, at the risk of losing their jobs.

To comment on this issue, please send an email to

I have posted my own email comment below, in the comments on this post. Feel free to quote it or use it in its entirety. Please comment by Oct. 11.

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and Instagram @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook.


Bob Rossi said...

" as Hinman points out, is this database REALLY necessary?" Is 90% of this really necessary? Hopefully the ABC will take account of the comments and make reasonable changes.

W. Blake Gray said...

Dear ABC: As currently planned, these regulations are racist and classist. They will place a burden on low-income people and function as a barrier to higher-paying jobs.

Here are several ways this new course required by the legislature can be made accessible for all Californians:

1) The course should be available for free, in every county and municipality in the state. Aspiring restaurant servers should not have to pay a third-party company for certification. The ABC should develop a course itself, and should not charge people to take it.

2) The course should be available in multiple languages. This should be written into the regulations to ensure that people who speak Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese or other languages commonly used by California restaurant workers are able to take the test in their first language. IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE GOOD COMMAND OF WRITTEN ENGLISH TO RECOGNIZE AN INTOXICATED PERSON.

3) Unless specifically ordered to by the legislature, the ABC should NOT maintain a database of the names and sensitive identification information of restaurant servers. This is unnecessary bureaucracy at taxpayer expense, and it violates the privacy of people just serving lunch for a living.

4) The requirements of the course should be re-examined to eliminate extraneous subjects that are not necessary to the main function, which is to identify intoxicated people.

Sincerely yours,
W. Blake Gray
Resident of San Francisco, CA

Roland Dumas said...

Dropping the cry of "racist" in your headline is clickbait, and when I see a white man crying racism, the instant reaction is "really??"

The servers need to be formally trained and tested on regs concerning serving to a potentially intoxicated person. Asserting that the implementation of the reg needs to take into consideration language and education is fair. They need to take that into account and make reasonable accommodations.

Don't cry racism. It's bad enough when minorities are discounted for playing the racism card. Don't play it on their behalf. You might be playing the white savior protector card.

Unknown said...

Possibly time for all folks who live in AMERICA to learn ENGLISH. If they are serving english-speaking customers they need to speak English. Lose the Racist banner, it serves no purpose except to engage the Left and makes you appear smaller than you really might be.

Bob Rossi said...

"If they are serving english-speaking customers they need to speak English."
Among other problems with your statement, there's a big difference between learning to speak English and passing a written test in English. My grandmother came to the US from Italy, and while she learned to speak English very well, I'm not sure she ever learned to read and write English. I would guess that most restaurant servers can speak and understand English well enough to do their job. Passing a complicated test in English is a different story. After all, our vitriolic Franco-American ex-Governor only got into college after being allowed to take an aptitude test in French.

Jon Maloney (jheuristic) said...

Reflexive shouts of racism, classism, and other offensive, specious claims are divisive and counterproductive. Drop 'em.

CA's ABC is only trying to assure the integrity of the state's Dram Shop Laws.

Many place here in SF have servers AND customers that are not fluent in English. Defusing a dram shop episode benefits from dialogue in native languages.

Thus, a better approach is situationally aware training and certification effort. It could be a scenario-based, multimedia app. Simple and low-cost.

BTW, Only degenerate Lefties conflate language and race. It is an unfortunate legacy that had been corrected decades ago. Language is no more a race than American is a race. Wise up. Requiring English on an ABC test is NOT racist, it's just plain stupid.

Jim Ruxin said...

This an immoral bill and likely not enforceable. I would expect stiff challenges in the 9th Circuit. The economic consequences would create much dislocation among working class families.

And the costs are outrageous! A $12-15/hr. server, does not $1,000 to spare or $250 to spare for each additional year...and paid to a for-profit company.

So much wrong with this, I am embarrassed for those who support this bill.