Smart Serve a wise idea

·2 min read

THUNDER BAY — People intending on starting work in an establishment that serves or sells alcohol should be aware that they must have an Ontario Smart Serve certification on day one of their job. Better yet, it should already be on their resume.

The Smart Serve program is regulated under the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and is a certification that helps servers, bartenders and anyone that retails in alcohol to learn about the proper handling of alcohol. Each applicant is taught about what a standard drink is, serving a drink properly, defusing a situation in which someone has been over-served, and making sure they can get home safely.

“It teaches you about the liabilities involved of being someone who serves liquor,” says Megan Shperuk, the hiring and first assistant manager of Mario’s Bowl.

Shperuk took to social media this week to urge those applying for jobs in the service industry which serve alcohol, to “Get your Smart Serve.”

“Most employers will see that as an asset and it is a requirement in places that serve liquor like we do at Mario’s,” she said. “We are a licensed facility and we require even the staff that don’t work in the kitchen and serving liquor directly, to have it. It teaches them how to watch for people who have been over-served, helping a group that you think has been over-served that they have a safe ride home, and how to to have those conversations with people without ruining their good time.”

The certification is mandatory for workers in licensed establishments.

Shpernuk says up until 2018, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario gave employers a 90-day window to provide in-house smart serve training, but now employees in a licensed facility need to have their Smart Serve certification on their first day.

Every province has their own Smart Serve certification program. There is a cost involved in applying for the card and the good part is it doesn’t expire. The application process is done online where the applicant works through some modules and has someone proctor their test.

“Once you have it, you have it,” Shpernuk said.

Recently, a new retail section has been added to the certification process. Because many grocery stores sell alcohol, namely beer and wine, employees who handle those sales are also required to have the certification.

“Those people are Smart Serve certified to teach them how to check identification properly, who to sell to and who not to sell to and defusing situations in times when it is not appropriate to make that sale,” says Shpernuk.

To apply for your Smart Serve certification, visit

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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