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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

"Long nights, fast money"

Student bartenders describe nights working in Main Street bars

On her first night of work, Shelby Herneisey saw one girl make out with another girl. Later that night, she saw the same girl slip in a bathroom covered with puddles of water. The girl's dress went up, and Herneisey saw everything.

Herneisey considered it a great first night working as a bartender at Mojo's.

Like Herneisey, a junior communication major, some students split their time between attending classes and bartending at Main Street bars like Northside and Mojo's, located near South Campus. The nights are long and the customers are rowdy, but bartenders enjoy the social, laidback atmosphere.

Herneisey has seen more "crazy" moments since her first night on the job. Once, she saw a guy proceed to pull down a girl's pants on the dance floor. Another time, a couple was kicked out of Mojo's for having sex in the bathroom, "just out in the open on the sink."

Before she poured her first drink, a friend referred Herneisey to the manager of Mojo's. Herneisey believes she was hired because the manager wanted a girl from her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta. Rachel Boccard, a junior exercise science major and a bartender at Northside, echoed Herneisey's thought.

"He hired everyone in Greek life," Boccard said. "He wanted at least one person in every fraternity and sorority to bring people in."

Students cannot just walk into these establishments and fill out an application.

Hunter Spector, a junior business major and bartender at Northside, has seen people get turned away after coming in looking for work. A personal connection to the manager trumps experience and qualifications, he said.

Spector had no experience bartending before being offered a position. Instead, he developed a friendship with the manager and was given a shot because of this familiarity.

Before customers arrive, the bartenders clean, set up, drink and socialize with their coworkers, according to Herneisey.

But times are not always leisurely behind the bar - especially during the 1 a.m. rush. Bartenders have to serve as quickly and efficiently as possible, while not being able to take a break or sit down for hours, according to Spector.

Circumstances can become stressful as the night continues and people drink more. Customers get antsy and rude while waiting for their drinks, Herneisey said, and remembering the contents of different drinks can be difficult.

Patrons can also get rude when a bartender messes up his or her drinks. Herneisey recalled an embarrassing time when a girl called her out for failing to make her drink correctly.

Female bartenders have a particular problem to deal with from behind the bar - creepy guys, according to Boccard.

"They'll be asking for [my] number and they'll wait until the bar closes and try to take me home," Boccard said. "Guys are very forward, especially when they are drinking. They don't realize how they act. It is definitely very uncomfortable sometimes."

Herneisey has also dealt with "creepy" situations. Once, an older man who did not order a drink simply stood at the bar and stared at her all night. She was so uncomfortable she refused to stand at his side of the bar.

She also realized some girls do not want to be served by her, even if the bartenders are really busy. They'd rather wait for a male bartender.

By splitting tips with her fellow bartenders, Boccard makes at least $100 a night, or roughly $20 an hour at Northside.

She pointed out the effects on her sleeping cycle because she cannot get to bed until 5:30 a.m. Boccard also said bartending interferes with her own partying, but she views her job as a way of seeing her friends and keeping her social life intact.

Having friends at the bar can also have negative side effects.

"It stinks having people think that you are friends with tip you because they just assume ... they don't have to tip, but that's the only place our money is coming from," Herneisey said. "People expect free stuff ... and I could lose my job by giving stuff away."

She saw it happen to a former coworker, who handed out "beer after beer" to a group of guys. The girl was fired that night, Herneisey said.

From behind the bar, Herneisey enjoys watching her peers interact while they are under the influence. For example, she said, she enjoys following those who are leaving together.

Spector recommends bartending to the average student if he or she gets the opportunity - but only if they have good time management abilities.

"It shows that you can work under pressure, multitask and work efficiently," Spector said. "It is a fun, sociable experience, and you rack in money relatively quickly."

An outgoing personality is necessary to be a successful bartender, according to Herneisey.

She believes the skills she is using in her job as a bartender will help her in the future.




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