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Question for all you Bartenders and ex-Bartenders out there

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Well-known member
Feb 21, 2004

I have a buddy that just got his CFI. He is always asking me for advice so I guess I am somewhat mentoring him.

Anyway, since he just got his CFI and is just out of college finances are quite a concern for him. We were brainstorming the other night and I told him maybe he should look into Bartending at one of the local hotspots. So that got me to thinking; how much could this guy expect to make tending bar 4-5 nights a week?

I have never been in that line of work so I thought I might ask any of you folks that have done it. Since he will be CFI'ing I am sure he will almost never be away from home and should be able to tend bar most weekends.

Can anyone tell me how much someone could make Bartending at some popular spots in the Southeast 3-5 nights a week? Also, what type of training is required. Do you have to go to a school to learn how to be a bartender?

I know a few popular high class restaurants that are looking for Bartenders so I think he could get a job somewhat easily.

Thanks for any info you can give.
I bartended 97-99 at various bars. On weekends, I made atleast $100. Sometimes $200-$300. Ussually on special occasions. Ofcourse, the hours suck and forget about holidays and weekends off. All in all, it was good pay for not much work. Infact, some nights were just all fun.

And oh, by the way, don't buy any of those BS Bartending PFT programs. A real job will train you how they want their drinks poored.
I was a flight instructor by day and a bartender by night. It was the only way I could afford to have a flight instructor job.

I worked at a reasonably popular rest/bar. I think I would make anywhere from $50 to $125 on a week night (varied a lot). Weekend nights I would make $100 to $200 (again it varies a lot). Most people only claim a small portion of the cash they make for tax purposes. As far as myself, I did claim all of my earnings like a good, law abiding citizen.

Anyway, I was more than able to afford flight instructing.

I had no special schooling. Started off as a doorman while in college, then they moved me behind the bar. It is fairly easy to pick up. Most people drink simple things, beer, shots, rum & coke, etc. On occasion some knucklehead will order an exotic drink they had while on vacation in Tahiti or some crap like that. Usually if they know what liquor was used in it (rum, vodka, etc) and the flavor, you can do a descent job of reproducing it.
Tell him to get a job waiting tables at a good restaurant/bar, then he can move up to bartender.While in college I worked in about 6 different restaurants and that was almos always the way it worked. The only hired people to be bartenders if the applicant had previous experience.

Good luck!
Yea i work at a rest/bar and make about $100 bucks a night but i actually make more serving tables usually about $100-200 per night and the shifts are nice and short. As for training i didnt have to get trained i just worked my way into the bar and the resturant trained me how they wanted. Now i am training people in the bar and trying to serve instead. From what i have seen going to some bar training school doesnt really help you out, you just need a good personality and they will train you do do the job.

"Most people drink simple things, beer, shots, rum & coke, etc. On occasion some knucklehead will order an exotic drink they had while on vacation in Tahiti or some crap like that" ....yea i second that one!!
I made at least 250 a night in a very large metro area. When the pinstripes were playing in a big game double that for each hour. I made over 60k in one year.
Whatever your friend does, dont pay to go to one of those mixology classes. Its completely unnecessary. The place he gets hired will train him as they want him. I worked at a 4 star restaurant in college, started as a server and was asked to be a bartender. The Bar manager asked me what training I had and I said '3 years of college.' Anyhow, it was a great time. Decent money (then) and plenty of eye candy. Worked alot of weddings etc which was pretty fun but I always had to leave the room when the GD electric slide came on.

Good job for a CFI to supplement. Like the others said, most drinks are an ounce of liquor and a mixer. Theyll teach you how to make martinis, manhattans, etc. You will occasionally get some chick who wants some foo foo girl drink drunk drink.

good luck.
I agree a mixology class is quite unnecessary. most of bartending is about paying attention to a customer not knowing how to make a harvey wallbanger.

depending on the clientele most of bartending is knowing a few dozen drinks and what beer you have. wine knowledge can be helpful at restaurants.

all that said, it's a great suppliment to income with the average bartender making betoween $50-200 a night. For those who have barjobs that make $300+ a night they are rare and hard to come by without experience
I have friends that make between $150 and up to $300ish here in Athens...big college town, big drinking town. Also have friends that make upwards of $400 working in Atlanta. It all depends on where you are. Your first job probably isn't going to be at one of the top bars, however. As far as training, I think you could just get a book and learn the most common drinks...very rarely are you going to get something too tough....Jack and Coke...Red Bull Vodka...not too hard, some of the shots are more complicated but just memorization.
There is another avenue closely related to being a bartender. And that is being a waiter in a restaurant. When my son was in college, he took a part time job in a Mexican Restaurant called "Chi-Chi's".

At first he waited on tables in the restaurant area. That involved taking patrons orders, bringing the food (and drink) to the table(s) and then presenting the bill and taking the money from the customers when they were done eating. He made good tip money, but he discovered something from a buddy of his who worked in the bar area that was a separate drinking area away from the dinning room. What he discovered is that people who are drinking generally tip better.

So, as soon as an opening came up for a waiter in the bar area (part time) he transferred into that section. He did not need to know how to make a drink. He just took the order and gave it to the bartenders, and then brought the rounds to the tables.

The secret to his getting good tips was to have an outgoing personality and make the customers feel good about being there. Customers who have booze as their only purchase do tend to tip a little more loosely.

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