Las Vegas is a drinking town, with 46 gallons of alcohol consumed, per person age 14 and older, each year in Nevada. That number doesn't take into account how much alcohol is consumed by the city's visitors. To get an idea of that amount, consider this: the Excalibur Hotel and Casino serves 1.2 million alcoholic beverages a month. Considering the Excalibur is just one of hundreds of bars in Las Vegas, it's a safe bet that there is a great need for bartenders in Sin City. Local bartenders don't let go of their jobs easily, especially those that work in the busy nightclubs, where upwards of $1,000 per weekend night in tips is not unusual.
Bartenders generally receive an hourly wage that is low to compensate for the tips they receive. The average bartender salary in Las Vegas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $13.05 per hour, which includes tips. This is higher than the state of Nevada average of $12.24. Salaries depend a great deal on where the bartender is employed: a small neighborhood bar, restaurant, golf course or large resort or casino. It also depends upon whether the bartender is a member of Bartenders Union Local 165. At some of the larger resorts, such as the Wynn, nightclub bartenders, who are paid $8.25 per hour, may serve up to 8,000 guests on a Saturday night. Tips, although pooled, make up the bulk of that bartender's income.
There are several different ways to learn how to tend bar in Las Vegas. Neighborhood restaurants and bars frequently offer jobs to potential bartenders during their slow shifts. Waitresses and waiters easily move into bartending positions in these establishments. Another avenue is to secure a position as a bar back in one of the larger hotels or casinos, where you assist and learn from the bartender on duty. Many Las Vegas bartenders, who begin their careers in the valley, attend a local bartending school. Additional education requirements include a Techniques of Alcohol Management training course to acquire a TAM card. This is a Nevada requirement for employees of all bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. You also need a sheriff's card -- also known as a work card -- and, if you occasionally serve food at the bar -- a health card. There is no training for the sheriff's card but there are mandatory classes and inoculations to obtain the health card.
The bartender who directly serves a patron may be required to check the person's identification to ascertain that he is of legal drinking age. A typical shift may begin with the bartender stocking the bar, preparing drink garnishes and ensuring there are enough glasses and ice. During her shift, in addition to making and serving drinks, she receives money from the customers and makes change, determines when a patron has had too much to drink, and keeps the bar area clean of empty glasses, dirty ashtrays and used napkins and stir sticks. Depending upon the establishment, it may be her job to order supplies and keep an inventory. Las Vegas bartenders in small local bars with gaming machines are frequently required to calculate and pay out winnings. A balance of cash and credit card receipts is generally the last duty of a Las Vegas bartender's daily shift.
A good Las Vegas bartender in a busy club requires, above all else, a good memory. The music is loud, patrons may be drunk and orders get shouted across the bar. The ability to remember four or five drink orders while preparing them is an asset. He must also have a menu of drink ingredients in his memory to allow him to quickly and efficiently prepare the orders. Bartenders in the Las Vegas neighborhood bars are frequently required to have a "following," or a group of steady customers who patronize the bar especially because that particular bartender works there. Small bars with gaming require the bartender to be familiar with various gaming machines, the games and the payouts. Patience, congeniality and knowing how to provide excellent customer service are additional skills no Las Vegas bartender can work without.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Per Capita Ethanol Consumption for States, Census Regions, and the United States, 1970–2007
- Vegas.com: Las Vegas History: Vegas by the Numbers
- United States Department of Labor: Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers
- United States Department of Labor: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010 35-3011 Bartenders
- Photo Credit Chris Clinton/Digital Vision/Getty Images