Glamor. Fame. Fun. Tips. These are the words that come to mind when thinking about a bartending job. But is the job all it’s cracked up to be?

First, Team Localwise interviewed Erik Sadauskas, bartender and owner of Heart and Dagger Saloon in Oakland, CA. Heart and Dagger Saloon is the place for locals to gather, drink, listen to music, shoot pool, and crush arcade games. Best of all, you can even bring your dog!

We also met up with Maureen Gibe, a bartender at The Good Hop, a beer bar in the same East Bay city. The Good Hop is the perfect place to meet a lot of great locals while trying one of their sixteen brews on tap. 

Eric and Maureen gave us the inside scoop on what it's really like to be bartenders in Oakland — sure to give you great insight to see if bartending is the right job for you!

Bartender Job Responsibilities

1. Know the menu

The basic “must-know” list of cocktails is about 30 drinks long. However, all of these drinks have several variations that you'll need to know. Some bartenders learn to make cocktails in bartender school, but most learn on the job. 

Erik from Heart and Dagger Saloon recommends skipping bartender school and starting as a busboy/girl, server, bar-back, or cocktail waiter/waitress instead.

2. Prepare the bar

Being a bartender involves a lot of preparation. All of those perfectly sliced lemon garnishes don’t cut themselves! Traditionally, a lot of prep work falls on the bar-backs but in many businesses, bartenders are required to help out, too.

3. Manage cash 

As a bartender, you will handle a lot of cash. Stay organized! The more organized you are when processing transactions, the less grunt work you will have to do later.

4. Talk to customers

Bartenders meet a lot of unique people. Erik from Heart and Dagger Saloon puts his all into customer communication. "You give a little piece of yourself to every person you come in contact with," he says, "and you’re lucky to have anything left by the time you get home.”

5. Clean

Things are bound to get dirty as you spend the night mixing drink after drink! When the bar is open, the bar-back does a lot of the cleaning, but once the bar is closed everyone chips in.

6. Limit liability

A big part of being a bartender is stopping problems before they happen. This can mean cutting off customers who have had one too many, encouraging aggressive customers to leave, and managing the overall vibe of the bar.

Bartender pay

Bartenders make the bulk of their money in tips. Base salary may be lower than other industries, but sky is the limit with tips! Provide great customer service and you'll be sure to take home a nice wad of cash.

Bartender hours

As a bartender, you will work on a shift schedule, with many weekends and late nights. But while the hours may be odd, this job's schedule definitely has its perks. Maureen from The Good Hop says, "Learn to appreciate your Mondays off, make time for friends and family when you can, and enjoy the fact that you get to sleep in when others don't!"

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