Would you dial up a plumber to come out to your house and clear your drains for free? How about if you told him, if he did it on the house it would look great on his resume and would be good for networking?
Do you think your dentist would feel guilty for declining to come out and clean your circle of friends’ teeth free of charge for three hours on her day off? Of course not, that is her line of work and it is how she provides for herself and her family.
Why then, are craft bartenders continually asked to offer their professional services and years of experience for no compensation? Is it that we are not valued by the very industry that we help fuel? Or is it because we do not yet truly value ourselves? I hate to admit it, but I think it is the latter, every bit as much as the former.
Think about the last big liquor event you went to: think about the delicious food, the gorgeous decorations and the beautiful venue. Now while, the staff taking out the food got paid for their work and everyone from the cleaning crew to the audio/video team got paid for their work. There is a really good chance that the “mixologists” got paid zero dollars for theirs.
This is in addition to the fact that the bartender, their likeness and their recipes were most likely co-opted by the marketing behind the event. Explained in the most basic of terms, this seems completely foolish.
In many ways, the craft cocktail world is still like the Wild West. Given that the cocktail resurgence is still relatively new in many parts of the country, this makes complete sense.
There is not a lot of precedence for much of the growth that has occurred over these last few years, so naturally a standardized and fair pay rate has not yet evolved. This is a shame, because it is long overdue.
This is in no way a tirade against the brands who throw these events, because they are simply paying us what we think we are worth. Let me repeat that, they are simply paying us what we think we are worth.
Did you ever notice that one bartender will get paid for $1,000 for working a two-hour party, while another bartender works a six-hour party and gets paid nothing. Yet both bartenders will be similarly accomplished with nearly identical resumes.
Granted at times, these events are for charity or non-profit, in which our time is donated in lieu of cash, these events are both welcome and beneficial to the community. However, this is not alwyas the case.
What I am suggesting is that craft bartenders, as a trade come together and hold ourselves to something more resembling an equitable pay rate.
This should not be controversial, because there is nothing controversial about fair pay for honest work.
All I am suggesting is that if an event organizer can come up with $8,000 to rent a venue and supply attendees with cocktails & food, that same organizer can come up with a few hundred dollars to pay the bartenders providing the drinks.