PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Legislation is going forward that would let people age 18 or older be hired as bartenders in South Dakota.
State lawmakers on the Senate Local Government Committee unanimously agreed with the proposal Friday. The full Senate could take up the bill as early as Tuesday, February 8.
South Dakota’s legal drinking age is 21.
Senator Mike Rohl, R-Aberdeen, originally wanted the expansion for those at least 19 years old in second-and third-class municipalities.
He said there often are just one or two bars in smaller communities, and increasingly they often are closed at least one night of the weekend, because they’re short of help.
The committee accepted an amendment from the alcohol industry to greatly broaden it.
“It includes all municipalities. It includes rural establishments. It makes it 18, the age where you become an adult,” said Matt Krogman, lobbyist for South Dakota Licensed Beverage Dealer and Gaming Association.
Rohl said he was okay with either version. He said people younger than 21 are already legal to work around alcohol in some circumstances.
“Let’s just say I’m going to Buffalo Wild Wings or any restaurant and I go to sit down, the waitress is the person ID-ing me, not the bartender,” Rohl said. “So we’re already trusting that individual that’s under 21 to be making the correct decision to go to process it. Actually, in current law, the bartender, as well as the waitress, would get in trouble if the waitress was not acting accordingly.”
People younger than 21 can work in the delivery chain too.
“So if you look at a beer wholesaler, for example, you could load trucks at 18. You’re loading actual pallets of product onto a truck,” Rohl said.
Senator Joshua Klumb, R-Mitchell, said the workforce issue is broader than just small towns.
“(It’s) not a second- or third-class municipality problem. First-class municipalities, there’s a lot of restaurants that aren’t open sometimes because they can’t get help,” Klumb said. “So I think in this current environment that we’re in, this makes sense, so I would support it.”