Bartending in Hoboken

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I'm relatively new to Hoboken (I've been here since last June). Things have pretty much settled down with my job and all, and I see that I have some free time a couple nights a week. Also, being completely self-sufficient in Hoboken at age 23 isn't financially easy. Couple those with the fact that I love bars, and I thought it'd be a good idea to pick up a couple of bartending shifts per week, not only for the cash but because it's something I enjoy (I've worked down the shore for years as a barback/bartender).

Obviously, this was much easier in my head than in practice. It's impossible to get a bartending job around here! How did you do it? Do you know someone, or did you get lucky, or what? I'd love to know, since this search is driving me nuts. Also, any suggestions would be much appreciated.

I got that letter in my gmail account, and figured that it would be a good thing to discuss on here, especially for other readers who were interested.

Even with experience, I think it is very hard to get a job bartending in Hoboken. I got my job due to my friend Joe. Dipper's was a new bar and Joe was going to manage the place and needed "guys that he could trust behind the bar".

That's the first rule of this service industry. Trust. The problem is that in our industry it is very easy for people to steal from the owners. Stealing by giving out too many free drinks, stealing money that should be going into the register by putting it in your tip jar (also known as "tipping the tills") and other nefarious ways. So if the owner or the manager sees a guy walking in off the street, and asking to bartend...that doesn't happen very often.

Also you have to consider that guys are a dime a dozen in bartending. The draw for most guys in a bar is their ability to keep the customer happy with good service or with good communication skills. They aren't there for their good looks.

Lots of women, on the other hand, are also very much judged on that special "third factor" - their looks. Quite simply, it helps the bars business to have a good looking woman behind the bar. A good looking female bartender will keep guys sitting at a bar for hours. Trust me, I have seen this first hand. I have seen guys walk in the bar, say, "Where's Susan?" and then spin around and leave when they find out that she isn't working that night. I know that the guy wasn't Susan's personal friend, he was a guy who simply liked to watch Susan work while he sipped his beer.

To get a job, i'd follow my old rules about Hoboken. Find a "local". A "local" is a local pub that you frequent at least once a week. My current local would probably be Court Street, since I go there for dinner about once a week. Moran's is also a local, but that was something I established years ago, and don't go there every week, but the bartenders all know me and we get along well enough. Mulligan's can be considered a local for me, because of my Eagles club.

Find a bar where you get to know the bartenders. Pubs are easier than some of those lounges in town. Find a bar where they don't have an entrenched staff - like people who have been working there for 10 years. Lots of "new" bars are opening up like "Four L's", for example. If I were in your shoes, i'd go there every Friday. Make yourself a regular. Get to know the owner and the staff. Tip well. Get a feel for who is working there. Is it the owner? Who are the bartenders? Maybe they need a barback or a waiter.

Get your foot in the door. Doesn't matter what you are doing. Just get the foot in there, and mention to the owner that you have bartending experience and would be happy to "fill in". "Fill in" is just as it sounds, you fill in if a bartender calls out sick or something. The owner knows he can call you last minute. Also i'd get a bar card, just in case. They cost $100 and last for 2 years. Then the owner will know that you can legally serve, too.

I simply got lucky over my job. I was fortunate enough to be a regular at Farside, and knew my friend Joe through the bartenders there. Joe and I became friends, and when the chance happened at Dipper's, I got my shot and never looked back. When Dipper's changed hands to Mikie's, the new owners re-interviewed everyone on the staff, including people off the street. I was the only person hired from the old employees at Dipper's. That's when the chances happen, if a new bar opens they interview staff. Established places already have their people and only luck or if you know someone will be the chance you get a job there.

Find a place as a local, preferably a newer place. At Mikie's we only have 2 people working there from the original 10 that started last year. I'm one of them. Turnover happens. People quit or get fired. The guys I have seen move into the ranks of bartending were either recommended by someone who worked there, and in some cases we took waiters & barbacks and turned them into bartenders.

Now that's my advice for guys. Women, a whole new rule set applies to them. Read on, if you dare...

The same basic rules apply to women. You have to be cordial and have social skills with regards to the service industry. Unfortunately, like I wrote before, the industry is a shallow place. Looks matter at most of the bars I worked at or frequented. Very rarely would I find a overweight or ugly female bartender behind the bar. Anytime that I did find an overweight or ugly bartender, they usually turn out to related to the owner.

That's life.

If you don't believe me, go into Teak on a Friday or Saturday and look at who they have behind the bar. Go into Texas Arizona. Go into Green Rock. Go into Black Bear. I'm sure somewhere in town that there may exist the one uncomely female bartender, but she's gonna be related to the owner.

Looks alone will probably get most women in the door. I have seen women with ZERO experience get a good bartending shift just because they were hot. But that only lasts so long. Hard work for men or women is what keeps you at a bar, and provides you with the chance to work the prime holiday shifts. No smart owner is going to put a good looking girl behind the bar on St. Patrick's Day, unless she is flanked by fast bartenders that can cover her incompetence.

If a cute girl asked me how she can get a job at a bar in Hoboken, it's not simple, but she absolutely has it easier than guys. I'm sure there are many bars in town that would love to have a cute, hardworking, personable girl behind the bar and all it takes is a few visits while they are out drinking to inquire about any open shifts. For the more loungy kind of places, it could be worth it to grab a waitress shift, but I have known friends of mine who tried that and they got the shaft with the owners when bartending shifts opened up and they weren't chosen. It depends on the owner and many other political things that happen at a bar.

Oh, and I think it doesn't hurt that if you are a women showing up to apply for a job to look as hot as you can. If you are cute and show up in sweatpants and a hat, that just won't fly. But showing up and looking as fresh as you can, is a must. For guys, I don't think it matters as much, but I would dress appropiately for whatever bar you are applying for. If you are going to a pub, I wouldn't show up in a suit, whereas if you were trying to score a shift at The Madison, i'm sure it can't hurt to sport a good suit (after work, of course) while you are trying to chat up the owner.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

2 Comments

It is always interesting to see things through other people's eyes. You always seem to think men get the short end of the stick. Trust me, there are plenty of bars in Hoboken that will absolutely not hire a female bartender. Ted & Jo's and Moran's are two that come to mind. I've also never seen a female bartender at Court St. and many other places. Yes, at some places I'm sure being an attractive woman helps, but at plenty others being a woman is seen by the owner as a liability (as in, if people are drinking and get out of hand she won't be able to throw someone out easily). Most bars don't have bouncers and the bartenders need to be able to handle whatever comes; some owners don't feel comfortable with women doing that.

Also, I thought that you needed to have a bar or other entity (St. Ann's if you are going to be bartending the festival, etc.) sponsor you to get your bar card, no?

Moran's hasn't changed their staff in about 2 years, and even then they stuck Tommy in there for the non-premium shifts. Kevin, Chuck and Lenny (the owner) have been working the Thursday, Friday, Saturday rotation for, what, 5 years? They are an example that I wrote about as "entrenched" employees, you simply aren't going to get a job at such places - as a guy or a girl.

I have found that most owners don't want men throwing anyone out or even touching unruly customers. They want us to call the cops, because bartenders can get in trouble if we hurt the customer when we throw them out.

I had a guy recently causing trouble, and I remembered that I shouldn't fight:
http://www.philly2hoboken.com/blog/archives/2006/07/drunk_and_disor.html

Look at Nine as another example, too. They have "Catholic Schoolgirl Night" on Thursdays! Look at their female bartenders, they are all very cute.

I don't think you don't need a bar to sponsor your bar card - at least I didn't. I went to the police station and just put in "Farside" for my first bar card and I wasn't even working there. I got it to help with festivals (Music festival, St. Patty's), and it wasn't a problem. You didn't need to be "on the books".

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on February 28, 2007 12:02 AM.

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