“It’s a bit of a rush:” student bartenders talk about life behind the bar

Whether you’re enjoying a $5 pitcher of Hemingway’s, sipping cocktails on the dance floor at Phat’s Bar, or trying to enter the Beer Cult beer contest at Fuel and Fuddle, Oakland is full of places to grab a drink. glass. And the person serving you behind the bar could be another Pitt student.

Kaeleigh Karetas, a young psychology student, has a bartender at Hemingway’s Cafe since last August. Karetas works up to 45 hours at Hemingway each week, in addition to balancing the tuition of a full-time student.

“I work 45 hours a week, probably,” Karetas said. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it’s not terrible. I usually come home around one in the morning. But then Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, that’s when I get home around two in the morning usually.

Balancing this busy schedule is difficult, according to Karetas. But with some effective time management skills, she is still able to stay on top of her schoolwork.

“I try to do most of my homework a week in advance so I don’t even have to stress. And that’s why I can work 40 to 45 hours a week,” Karetas said. “I can go to school and everything, I can go to the library in the afternoon and then spend the night at Hem’s. And I feel like I balance it pretty well.

Mary Pitz, a double major in applied math and fifth-grade psychology, has worked at Fuel and Fuddle for more than three years. She said she is familiar with the difficulties of working and going to school full time.

According to Pitz, who is taking a semester off from school, it can be easy to burn out trying to find the right balance.

“I ended up working almost full time while I was in school, which is why I’m taking time off this semester,” Pitz said. “Balancing school and work becomes quite difficult because I want to earn money and pay my rent and everything, but obviously school is very important.”

Sierra Scott, a double major in art and English literature, is also a bartender at Fuel and Fuddle. She said bartending can be one of the most financially stable jobs you can get as a student, especially if you’re financially independent.

“You get a lot of money for the amount of work you do, especially the bartender. You can probably finish your $700 shift on a busy night or a regular night. And when it’s busy, sometimes you can win up to $1,000,” Scott said. “And as a student, if you pay your own tuition, or pay anything, that’s really valuable.”

But money isn’t the only potential perk for student bartenders. Karetas, who has worked in a variety of retail and service jobs, said chatting with regulars is one of the best parts of her job and has helped her develop her interpersonal skills.

“I have regulars who come every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and I know them by first name,” Karetas said. “I know their life and they know mine. And being a psychology major, it’s also great to be able to develop all those social skills with people coming in.

Pitz has had a similar experience getting to know clients and said that while there’s a big age gap between her and her clients, it’s refreshing to talk to them about what’s going on in their lives.

“I say [the regulars] pretty good. Even though they’re 40 and I’m half their age, we still vibe pretty well and I love chatting with them,” Pitz said. “It’s very different from chatting with people in class where it’s like, ‘Oh what party did you go to this weekend?’ Where my regulars are like, ‘My kid got in trouble at school today’ and I’m like, ‘God, tell me what Tommy did this time.’

Chatting is an important part of the job, according to Pitz. She said that as someone who was wary of talking with adults, the bartender helped her be more comfortable in her ability to address concerns, especially with teachers.

“I used to be an anxious person talking to adults. I don’t know why, but it would always make me so nervous. But I’ve been more comfortable, especially with teachers, and that helped me ask for extensions or reach out when I need help,” Pitz said. “So mostly [bartending] made me more proficient at talking to adults.

Pitz said the fast-paced environment is exciting and she loves the confidence she’s developed behind the bar.

“It’s kind of a rush. You just run, throw drinks,” Pitz said. “And people will be sitting at the bar watching me kill glasses or pour 10 vodka sodas at once, and they’ll be like, ‘Wow that’s so cool!’ or, “You look so cool over there.”

Scott said bartending is fun, but there are also times when the job can be confrontational and learning to hold your own is key.

“I think being a bartender or a server gives you the basics to learn how to defend yourself,” Scott said. “You have to be strong-willed and strong-minded to do some of the things we do, or to deal with the customers we sometimes deal with.”

Karetas said one of the hardest parts of the job is dealing with rowdy customers. But she found that her colleagues at Hemingway were always supportive and had no problem dealing with rude customers.

“Everyone who works there is very supportive and they won’t let people mistreat you,” Karetas said. “It’s pretty much on a one-shot basis, so if you curse us or do anything disrespectful, you’re out immediately.”

Karetas said working in a social environment, meeting new people and seeing familiar clients are some of the best parts of her job.

“Being a bartender is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. And you still have your social filler because it’s such a social job, which I think is amazing,” Karetas said. “It’s a great moment. I love doing it and seeing familiar faces.


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