Governor Signs HB 365 Allowing 18-Year-Olds to Serve Alcohol in Delaware Restaurants

The Delaware Restaurant Association (DRA) strongly supported the introduction and passage of HB 365 – an act to amend Title 4 of the Delaware Code relating to alcoholic liquors.  Previously, the age for wait staff to serve alcohol to a patron was 19 years old. This Act lowered the age of persons permitted to serve alcohol from 19 to 18 years of age for all establishments licensed for the on-premises sale and consumption of alcoholic liquor except taverns and taprooms.  Sponsored by Speaker of the House Pete Schwarzkopf and co-sponsored by Senator Ernie Lopez, the bill was signed into law by Governor John Carney on July 17, 2018.


“The requirement that you could be 18 and a server at a restaurant but not serve alcohol until you’re 19 was an arbitrary law that prevented young people from being able to work in certain areas of the restaurant industry. But my bill to lower the age to serve alcohol 18 was signed into law, so now young Delaware residents like Sydney and Jasmine (pictured) will have the opportunity to be more involved in their restaurants and earn better wages too.

 — Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, Representative 14th District


The restaurant industry in Delaware currently employs nearly 50,000 – 10% of the state’s workforce.  Restaurant jobs are first jobs for 1 in 3 Americans, with early opportunities serving as training grounds for America’s workforce. The hospitality industry is the largest component of Delaware’s tourism industry, and as crowds swell at the beach each summer over 6,000 additional jobs are created for seasonal workers.  Delaware routinely see a seasonal workforce increase of more than 17%….one of the nation’s highest in available job opportunities (National Restaurant Association).  Employing 18-year-old servers allows teenagers to gain valuable work experience, rather than jumping the line to MD or neighboring states where younger workers previously had the advantage in employment opportunities.  Delaware’s ProStart® Program, currently reaching over 3,000 Delaware high school students, has been successful in providing and industry-driven culinary and management curriculum, valuable skills and workforce connections.  A recent survey of Delaware ProStart® juniors and seniors indicates that 53% are currently employed, with over two-thirds employed by the hospitality industry (Delaware Restaurant Association Educational Foundation).


 “The lasting benefits of early work experience are well-document.  Once teenagers land that first job they begin to learn the interpersonal and soft skills that will benefit them beyond their first paycheck.  This is a win-win for Delaware’s young workforce and our local restaurants.”

— Carrie Leishman, DRA President & CEO


Full legislation details here:




The Delaware Restaurant Association

The only state trade association dedicated to promoting, educating, and advocating for Delaware’s foodservice industry.  Delaware’s 2,000 restaurants employ nearly 50,000 with an economic impact of over $3.7 billion in annual sales.  Delaware restaurants are the largest small business employer in the state and the largest component of Delaware’s tourism industry.


The Delaware Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is the non-profit, philanthropic arm of the Delaware Restaurant Association, dedicated to developing training initiatives for Delaware’s youth and workforce.