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Bartending Venues: Work That Fits Your Style

Updated on January 21, 2014
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So you’ve decided to become a bartender, or maybe you’re already a bartender but you want a change of scenery on the job front. Maybe you’ve tried the nightclub scene and found that the work is harder than it looks and the money isn’t quite what you thought it would be. On the surface, a nightclub or dance club looks like a great place to make a large pile of cash on every shift, but looks can sometimes be deceiving. Given the many cheap drink specials, so popular for packing in the under 25 clientele at the more popular and successful nightclubs, you’ll likely stay busy, but cheap drink specials generally don’t translate into lots of tips.

Sports Bars and Venues

So, what else is out there for a talented and motivated individual seeking to sling a few drinks and make a living doing it? First things first, as in any job, consider playing to your strengths and interests. Anybody can learn drink recipes, but it takes a unique personality to fit in to certain venues. If you’re really not into sports, you probably won’t want to try your hand at a sports bar. On the other hand, true sports fans should consider this venue. Not only could you be part of the action on game day, joining in and cheering on your favorite team along with your patrons, but you can also keep those patrons coming back to your bar by being able to carry a sports-related conversation knowledgeably and enthusiastically between games or sporting events, increasing your potential for a regular clientele.

If you're willing to consider part-time or seasonal work, consider applying at your local sports arena or stadium. For the die-hard sports team fanatic that couldn't afford season tickets, what better way to be in attendance at every home game? Sure, you'll be working while the game is going on, but you'll still be an integral part of the action, and you'll be making money instead of spending it.


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More Upscale, Reserved or Specialized Venues

Know all about craft beers or certain cultures? Consider the local brew house or neighborhood themed pub. It may be a bit slower paced than some of the other venues, but the potential is high for regular clients and for building a following.

More of a wine connoisseur? Consider a position in a fine dining establishment, where strong customer service skills and the ability to cater to a more discerning and reserved clientele would serve you well. You’ll likely be expected to dress more formally in this type of job, often in classic black and whites or similar attire as dictated by the establishment. While you’ll likely have less regular patrons in this type of setting, this venue can still be very lucrative with tips coming in from both customers at the bar and the wait staff ordering drinks for their tables.

Along the same lines as the fine dining venue is the country club setting, which tends to cater to a wealthier clientele and calls for a level of customer service to match. Drinks called for here may be a bit more old-fashioned than in some of the other venues, and you may not always be quite as busy, meaning you won’t always make quite as much in tips, but the hourly wage tends to be a bit higher here to compensate.

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Dipping Into the Travel and Tourist Industry

Another option for the bartender who is well versed in a wide variety of drink recipes is the hotel or resort bar. If you can widen your adult beverage perspective a bit beyond your basic beer, wine, mixed drinks, and shooters, you may want to consider this venue. You’ll cater to a wide variety of travelers, meet new people on a regular basis, and maybe even gather a few regulars from among those who travel for business. You should be ready to make any kind of drink in this venue, particularly if the bar also services a hotel or resort restaurant.

Part-time options here include seasonal jobs such as those at a performing arts or cultural centers. Like the sports fans, bartenders with an interest in the arts could find themselves in the thick of the action with one of these positions. Part-time bartending for a catering company, banquet service or party service could also allow you the flexibility to work the part time schedule that suits your lifestyle the best. In some cases, you can even work as an independent contractor and drum up business on your own. This requires that you have your own set of bartending tools and at least one standard set of black and whites.

On the other end of the spectrum are full time contract jobs such as those found with some of the larger cruise lines, which will generally have you working eight to twelve hour shifts for six months at a time. Want to stay on land? Consider working at a casino bar or theme park that serves alcoholic beverages. Casinos often serve nearly 24 hours a day, providing for a variety of schedules both full-time and part-time. Theme parks tend to have more set hours.


Bartending is a fun and often profitable way to make a little extra money or a lucrative main salary, depending on your choice of venue. With something for just about every lifestyle, you can choose the venue that fits your needs.

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