2019 Conference
All Conferences
Contacts & Support
TSVC | Tourism Students Virtual Conference

A brief investigation in to the role of the student bar keep.

A brief investigation in to the role of the student bar keep.
Author: James Calvert-Hollis
0 Commentries
Abstract: This paper sought to explore the behind-the-scenes goings on of the student bartender and explore their motivations to work as well to gain an insight in to their working environment. The bartender is often seen as an unskilled and temporary position, what is often missed from the drinking side of the bar is the enormity of stress that is created and the almost superhuman patience that is required to work in this industry.

Keywords: Bartending, Students, Student Bartenders, Pubs, Nightclubs, Hospitality Workers, United Kingdom, Gender Differences

Late nights, agitated customers and cleaning fluorescent sick off of bathroom walls – the life of a bartender is a strange one; caught somewhere in a binge-drinking epidemic (The Guardian, 2001; BBC, 2008; 2015) between retail work and social care, the bartender is unsure whether they’re there to sell drinks or to look after a zoo; and in which case who kept giving all these animals more liquor! Indeed, jobs in hospitality have been called dirty jobs (Baum, 2006) and are generally characterized as low-skilled and hold a negative image (Walmsley, 2004). But the life of the bar keep is far from easy and stress-free, with higher risks of alcohol-related deaths and higher rates of homicide (Dimich-Ward et al, 1988), as well as work-related variables associated with bartending which may lead to severe health problems (Tutenges et al, 2013).

Three interviews were conducted with two female student workers and one male, working at a nightclub; a town pub; and a village pub - this was done because many authors have focussed on the owners/landlords and ignored other staff (e.g. Smith, 1985; Mutch, 2000; Pratten, 2005). General themes included the primary motivator being financial, but the work environments were regarded as ‘happy’ and the job was enjoyable due to the socialness of working the bar. All three had received little training and felt that they had been ‘thrown in the deep end’, though all three also thought that this was the only way to be introduced to this job. As part-time workers they were often asked to work spontaneously and would also be sent home if the establishment was overstaffed; as well as this, the female student working at a town pub was also working at another pub, a few blocks away owned by the same landlord, once her planned shift had finished. Pratten & Lovatt’s (2003) statement that “part-time employees in this sector are used as stopgaps and they are treated as more expendable than full-time employees” (p. 384) still holds true.

Differences in gender were noted during the interviews, as both female workers had stories to share of encounters with men who had gone too far, while they felt they were ‘doing their job’ and ‘just being polite’. As well, the male worker at the village pub was told during his recruitment that one of the reasons for his employment was that he was male; because they had been having trouble and only had female bar staff. The nightclub worker had discussed recruiting friends with her manager, to which his response would be to look them up on Facebook and decide on their attractiveness whether they would get the job; it is important to note that the ‘use of attractive women to attract customers may well give rise to sexual harassment’ (Pratten & Lovatt, 2003) and create a ‘prime breeding ground for sexual harassment’ (Gilbert et al, 1998).

Being a student and working was also discussed with the respondents, with most feeling that their manager/landlord understood their need to prioritize studying; however they all had experiences to share on times when they could not get time off work in order to complete something related to their studies. On top, the nightclub worker often worked late nights and by the time she had finished and got home, she was often too fatigued to attend lectures. All the bartenders had felt pressure put on and were required to work public holidays, with all feeling that it was a necessity of the job. Still, it was a job that provided income and a sociable experience, but all three interviewees felt it was just a job ‘while they pursue a real career’ (Lloyd, 2006). The main skills learnt were mostly interpersonal, with none of the respondents feeling they had gained much else from the jobs; not that this was necessarily bad as they all had gained confidence from their positions behind the bar; which can be applied to almost any industry and profession.

However, despite it’s problems and hardships; the student and the bar work like clockwork; the bar and the student rely on each other so it should only be logical that the student relies on bartending. While very few carry on and distinguish themselves from other types of bartenders to create a career as a ‘cocktail bartender’ (Ocejo, 2012), the temporary bartender is normally always needed and the temporary bartender always needs the work. The socialness of the job is the main attractor and the only thing that will make an employee stay, because once that spontaneous interaction and those random conversations are taken out of the equation, you are left with minimum wages, long physical work hours and unappreciative and annoying inebriated patrons; this is certainly no Tom Cruise (Cocktail 1988) lifestyle.


Baum, T. (2006) “Human resource management for tourism, hospitality and leisure: An international perspective.” Thomas Learning; London.

BBC News (2008) “Teenage binge drinking ‘epidemic’.” [Online] Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7242802.stm [Accessed: 25/04/2015]

BBC News (2015) “Binge drinking ‘costing UK taxpayers £4.9bn.” [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32126518 [Accessed: 25/04/2015]

Dimich-Ward, H. and Gallagher, R. and Spinelli, J. and Threlfall, W. and Band, P. (1988) “Occupational mortality among bartenders and waiters.” In The Canadian Journal of Public Health, Vol. 79. pp. 194-197.

Gilbert, D. and Guerrier, Y. and Guy, J. (1998) “Sexual harassment in the hospitality industry.” In International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 10 (2). pp. 48-53.

Lloyd, R. (2006) “Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrialist City.” Routledge; New York.

Mutch, A. (2002) “Where do public house manager come from? Some survey evidence.” In International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 13 (2). pp. 86-92.

Ocejo, R. E. (2012) “At your service: The meanings and practices of contemporary bartenders.” In European Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol. 15 (5). pp. 642-658.

Pratten, J. D. (2005) “A new landlord? A study of the changing demands on the UK public house manager.” In International Journal of Hospitality Management, Vol. 24 (3). pp. 331– 343.

Pratten, J. D. and Lovatt, C. J. (2003) “Sex discrimination in the licenses trade: A study of the differing attitudes to legal matters.” In International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 15 (7). pp. 379–385.

Smith, M. (1985) “The publican: Role conflict and aspects of social control.” In Service Industries Journal, Vol. 5 (1). pp. 23–36.

The Guardian (2001) “Binge-drinking: Britain’s new epidemic.” [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2001/feb/19/drugsandalcohol.uknews [Accessed: 25/04/2015]

Tutenges, S. and Bogkjaer, T. and Witte, M. and Hesse, M. (2013) “Drunken Environments: A Survey of Bartenders Working in Pubs, Bars and Nightclubs.” In International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol. 10. pp. 4896-4906.

Walmsley, A. (2004) “Assessing staff turnover: a view from the English Riviera.” In International Journal of Tourism Research, Vol. 6 (4). pp. 275-288.