Raising the Bar

Between bands at the 9:30 Club one night, hordes of the revelers crowd the bar demanding refreshments from the two bartenders who seem to be going out of their minds. From negotiating rowdy drunks to busting underage drinkers trying to pass themselves off as 21, their responsibilities exceed pouring drinks.

Despite the routine job challenges, several GW students who work as part-time bartenders give the job high marks for the fun and the profit it yields .

Senior Pete Tooey began bartending at Mister Day’s at 1111 19th St. N.W. in October. He works Tuesday nights – a popular time for GW students who are 21 and older. Despite his lack of experience, Tooey caught the attention of the bar’s management with his dedication to their establishment.

Ever since freshman year I’d go there for dinner because it’s two bucks, and it was cheap, he said. His consistency won him the job by senior year.

Tooey said working at Day’s is the best college job one could find. He said he makes good money, has an understanding boss and his friends can come hang out too.

I have great connections, he said. I can get into clubs for free and get free drinks at bars.

Tooey said Mister Day’s is a great place and has good company. The type of crowd has grown, he said.

It’s a very wide range, he said of the clientele. People come from American University, GW, University of Maryland and even some D.C. cops come by.

As a bartender, Tooey is responsible for carding people, though he doesn’t do it a lot.

We have about four to five bouncers, they’re very hard at carding, and we’ve got a lot of police around, he said.

Consequences for serving under-aged customers are steep.

(The authorities) fine the bar, they fine the bartender, throw the bartender in jail for the night, and it’s a $1,000 fine, he said. It’s not worth it. There is nothing that could convince me to give a drink to an under-aged person.

Tooey said he has never had a problem with his customers drinking too much, although he calls the Day’s crowd pretty much drinkers. Still, monitoring people’s drinking and behavior all the time is difficult, he said. If he ever notices someone in trouble, he would regulate the person’s drinking before it went too far, he said.

As in any club, Mister Day’s gets busy, and part of Tooey’s responsibility is juggling the orders coming at him from all directions.

I’ll just start at one end and go back and keep rotating through, he said. It gets so crazy that you can’t favor people over other people.

Rude customers can also be a problem, especially on busy nights. We’ve had people whistle at us, he said. It’s just rude.

Tooey started off without knowing how to mix any drinks. But now he can make many, including his favorite creations, such as the Beam Me Up Scottie and the Mind Eraser. He encourages drinking games around the bar to liven up the mood.

I like to create the atmosphere at Mister Day’s, he said.

Another GW student bartender is junior Suzanne McCann. Like Tooey, she learned her skills on the job, but she said she plans to try bartending school this summer.

Working in restaurants with bars since she was 16, McCann is now a waitress and bartender at Froggy Bottom Pub at 2142 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., and says that she likes working behind the bar.

It’s cool because a lot of times if you have to work on the weekends, you can’t really go out with your friends, she said. But if you work in a bar, you’re kind of doing that, and instead of it costing you 30 bucks to go out, you’re making four times that.

Like Tooey, McCann said her job gives her a chance to meet lots of interesting people. She has even bartended a few GW parties at Froggy Bottom, but said it’s not really too much bartending. This means she serves mostly beer and shooters, and the orders don’t give her much trouble.

McCann said she hasn’t really encountered any problems in her bartending experiences. At Froggy Bottom, it is usually the doorman’s responsibility to card people when they arrive. One common problem when she is forced to card customers is examining the variety of IDs patrons present.

People come in with all kinds of different IDs, and especially because we live in D.C., and it’s hard to tell a real ID from a fake one, she said.

Overall, McCann said she enjoys the experience of bartending. Her favorite drink to make is a Long Island iced tea, because it’s the hardest.

It’s fun when they come out good, she said.

One GW student did decide to attend bartending school and is now waiting to turn 21 to work legally as a bartender in D.C. Steven Hane attended a professional bartending school in Arlington, Va., where he took a two-week course to become a certified bartender.

Hane said he learned a lot at the school.

I thought the faculty there were very capable and taught us well, and it was a good experience, he said. I got to meet some other people in the D.C. area, and I learned a new skill.

Hane also learned about the serious responsibilities that come with working in a bar. In a Techniques in Alcohol Management course, he memorized laws related to the field.

It included keeping an eye on the customers and making sure that if they were getting to the point where they were intoxicated, to slow down their service and try to get them to drink non-alcoholic drinks and to eat food to try and slow down their intoxication, he said.

He was also taught how to look for fake IDs and authenticate licenses. Though he said he looks forward to beginning his new part-time job, at the moment bartending by minors is limited to the Maryland area. Hane said it is too far away for him to hold a job there.

It’s a very fun job, Tooey said. But all of the students agreed it can be tough at times. Unlike McCann, his least favorite drink to make is a Long Island iced tea. It’s just hard to do.

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