Questions about bartending?!
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I'll tackle these one at a time, but first off I'm going to say that even if you spend a ton of money on bartending school, it's highly unlikely to translate to a job right off the bat. Bar managers couldn't care less about which bartending school you went to. They care more about experience, personality, and reliability. Like a job in any other field, you're going to have to work your way up.
That being said, bartending school is a great way to learn how to pour specific amounts of liquor, and to get a grasp on how to make the most popular drinks.
Now, I'll try to give completely honest answers to your questions.
1. I love being a bartender. There are obvious perks, such as shorter hours than most full-time jobs, excellent money, not having to wait two weeks for a paycheck, etc. However, my favorite thing about bartending is the community that you will eventually find yourself a part of. Bartenders tend to hang out with other bartenders because we work very different hours than those of our 9-5 friends.
There are also drawbacks, which are usually health-related. Because we spend so much time around those pretty bottles, we tend to drink more often than other people. Also, if most of your friends work day jobs, you'll find that you're able to see them much less. Forget about going out with them on Friday night because you'll likely be working.
Also, unless you find yourself employed by a large chain, you'll likely not have employer-paid health benefits or paid vacation. If I have to take a Saturday night off to go to a friend's wedding, I'm going to lose money. End of story. It's a trade-off, like everything else.
2+3. Short answer: the tips are usually quite good. It's normal for me to pull in over $500 for a Friday or Saturday night shift, but I'm also a bartender at a reasonably hip bar in downtown Boston. You won't make nearly as much in, say, downtown Des Moins, but the cost of living there is much cheaper so it's all relative.
I also work day time at my bar and the average is between $100-150 for a six-hour shift.
4. If you don't have any experience, most places will only hire you to be a day time bartender, as the lucrative night shifts are usually reserved for the people that have been there longest. Day bar is a great way to learn drinks and get to know the regulars though. Like any other job, you're going to have to "pay your dues" before you can make the big bucks.
5. There is a vast difference between what one makes on day bar vs. night. However, many [but definitely not all] places pay the daytime bartender a small hourly wage, usually between $6-8 an hour in addition to tips. Nighttime bartenders do not make an hourly. They must rely solely on tips.
6. Is it fun? Most of the time. If you begin a bartending career because you love alcohol and love talking to people, you'll enjoy your job. If you decide to become a bartender solely based on the money, you may find that it's not all it's cracked up to be. Bartending is difficult work, physically and mentally. You must be willing to stand on your feet and move quickly for up to 10 hours at a time. More than likely, you will not get scheduled breaks. You may be expected to lift heavy buckets of ice and change beer kegs. You will leave the bar at night absolutely reeking of alcohol.
Also, let's face it: some customers just plain suck. Some people are unpleasant even when sober. Add copious amounts of alcohol to that equation, and they can get unbearable relatively quickly. As a bartender, it is your job to represent the establishment, and you can never give anybody attitude, even when they deserve it. Luckily, most managers and security personell are more than happy to take an unruly customer off your hands.
7. In my experience, you will make tips based solely on your attitude, not based on your gender. Yes, some men will tip a nice-looking female a dollar or two more than a male, but some women tip handsome male bartenders more, so it evens out. Remember, most bars will have at least two bartenders on busy nights, and you're all going to pool your tips anyways, so everybody is going to walk home with the same amount.
8. Advice? Take time to learn the craft. The best bartenders are those that have spent years learning about different types of alcohol and which flavors compliment others, much like a good chef. You must learn how to talk to strangers. Practice your small talk. Learn how execute the most popular drinks FLAWLESSLY. Remember, as a bartender, all eyes are on you. You're expected to treat the bar as if you're playing the role of hostess. Introduce regulars to each other, never blatantly ignore a patron. Be on top of your game. With a little practice, you should do fine.
Professional bartender in Boston