Bartenders and waiters must be age 21 in order to serve alcohol in bars and restaurants. But children age 16 and older can work in grocery or convenience stores that sell alcohol as long as the alcohol containers remain sealed and the minors are supervised by an adult employee.
The minimum required age of this supervising employee varies by locale, and the employees may also be required to secure an "alcohol education card" as a condition of working there.
Minimum age to serve alcohol in grocery stores or convenient marts in Nevada
Under NRS 244.351, children as young as 16 may work at a Nevada retail food store that sells wine, beer, spirits, or liquor if the following three conditions are true:
- the minor is supervised by an employee or owner who is at least 18 years old;
- that supervisor is present when the minor is handling the alcohol; and
- the alcohol is corked and sealed (no open containers).
However, individual cities and counties may have more stringent rules:
For instance, the City of Las Vegas under Municipal Code 6.50.490 increases the minimum age of the supervisor from 18 to 21. And throughout unincorporated Clark County, County Code 8.20.055 requires that all employees that handle alcohol have an "alcohol education card." People can obtain these cards by taking an Alcohol Education Course like this one. The average cost for getting this card is $20.
Minimum age to serve alcohol as a bartender or a waiter in Nevada
Bartenders and waitstaff at restaurants or taverns that serve open containers of wine, beer, spirits, or liquor must be at least 21 years old, which is the legal age to drink alcohol.
Underage possession of alcohol in Nevada
People under 21 who are not lawfully employed by a grocery store or convenience store face criminal charges for possessing alcohol.
People under 21 who illegally possess or consume alcohol face charges for the Nevada crime of underage alcohol possession (NRS 202.020). It is a misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying:
- up to six (6) months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
Note that minors under 18 who unlawfully possess alcohol are typically prosecuted in juvenile court instead of adult criminal court. (Whereas adults may be convicted of crimes, minors may be adjudged "delinquent.") In Juvi Court, the judge may impose:
- up to six (6) months in juvenile detention and/or a fine of up to $1,000; and
- an alcohol evaluation to see whether the child is an addict; and
- rehab (if the evaluation finds that the child is an addict); and
- a driver's license suspension of nine (9) months to two (2) years
Note that first-time offenders typically receive an order to do community service rather than serve time in juvenile detention.
Also note that people under 21 face a $500 fine merely for loitering at a saloon. (NRS 202.030) However, minors may be employed as entertainers in places where alcohol is sold as long as they leave once the show is over (NRS 202.060; Attorney General Opinion 260 | 9-8-1965)