She throws on a women’s fit T-shirt with a Court Street bar’s logo, a pair of denim shorts, and gym shoes —because the floor behind the bar can get slippery. Behind the bar, she’s ready to serve drinks and prepared for any customer who gets a little too friendly. She drops some change and bends down to pick it up. Even over the music, she hears the whistles directed toward her from the other side of the counter. And it doesn’t stop there. They’re calling her “baby” and grabbing her hand when she takes their credit card to pay for their fourth round of shots. She shakes it off, gets back to work, and watches the group of drunkards leave. It certainly won’t be the last encounter tonight.
The bricks of Court Street lead Athens’ night owls, and day drinkers down the iconic road lined with bars. But, before walking into their favorite Court Street establishments and ordering their favorite drinks, they must interact with a bartender. And in many cases, that bartender is a woman.
With about 20 bars in the local area, each featuring several female employees pouring the beverages, there are plenty of personal, tell-all stories from the women bartenders’ perspective on Court Street. Just as each establishment differs from the others, each woman’s experience varies, and she has her own story to tell.
Tori Simokov, an Ohio University senior, took her resume to every bar on Court Street 14 months ago seeking a job. After receiving Simokov’s resume, cover letter and attached photo, The Pigskin hired her. Coming from a serving background at Cantina Laredo and Hooters in her hometown, Simokov learned to transition her skills from a Columbus server to an Athens bartender at the 38 North Court Street bar and grill.
“In order to be a bartender, you have to be adaptable, work long hours, stay on your feet all day, get very little sleep, and deal with all different kinds of customers,” Simokov said. “You have to be able to multitask.” Workers not only make drinks but they cut fruit, clean the bar, clean dishware, fetch refills and make sure people get their food at some places.
Before Simokov whips up Pigskin’s signature Black Widow drink or her own signature Hammerhead cocktail — a Barcardi Mango with Strawberry Pucker, Sprite and pineapple juice mixture — she gives tips for people to be good customers on Court
- Do not raise your hand or tap your credit card or money on the bar or scream anyone’s name to get a drink.
- Rule of thumb for tipping: $1 per drink that you order.
- It’s fine if you order five waters, but that takes a lot of time to do. Just give a $1 for that.
- Don’t be an asshole if you have to wait for a little bit.
- Don’t order Bloody Marys at night: “People do that a lot and it takes a long time to make, and who the hell even does that?”
- “Don’t try and get me to buy you a drink or give you a free drink. Also, don’t ask for a free drink if you spilled yours. If I spill your drink, I’ll give you another one, but if you spill your drink, I’m not giving you another one.”
After working her first HOUmecoming weekend as Pigskin’s beer tub girl, Simokov came across a tweet from OU Crushes, a popular Twitter account where people anonymously submit their crushes, the following day. An Ohio University alum with an American Express Black Card wanted to take Simokov, the “tall, gorgeous, blond bartender at Pigskin” on a trip to Paris via his private jet. ”Simokov found the tweet so ridiculous and far-fetched that it was hilarious, she said. “It was funny and random.” Simokov’s boyfriend joked and tweeted back, “Babe I’d give this guy a chance if I were you. The coolest place I can afford to take you is Funbarn.”
Another woman who is in the Athens bartending scene is Ohio University student Laura Baker. With three years experience working at Pawpurr’s, Baker loves being involved with other students and people her age. “It’s kind of like partying for your job.”
Regardless of the good or the bad, customers contribute to the lady bartenders’ experiences through giving tips. On an average night, Baker will walk away with $180-$300 in tips. On a special Athens weekends (i.e. Dads Weekend, HallOUween, HOUmecoming), Baker will take home between $400-$600. “I’m able to pay the bills, that’s for sure.”
Along with tipping, customers shape bartenders’ overall experiences. Baker has been in a positive atmosphere where a guy who was “dancing and having a great time” spilled a drink on himself on the establishment’s wooden stage and yelled, “I love Pawpurr’s!”
“Seeing our customers have fun makes us have fun,” Baker said.
Sometimes when customers are having a great time, they’ll hit on Baker or use various terms of endearment. From being addressed as “babe, honey, and sugar,” Baker admits this happens to her and to women bartenders in general. Guys tend to ask for Baker’s number, which sometimes puts her “in an awkward situation.” However, she has her tactics of avoiding giving her number away to male customers. She says when she’s not equally interested in a customer, she tells him that she doesn’t give her number away at work but tells him in a “nice way” that he knows where to find her or she tells customers she’s at Pawpurr’s to work and not to date.
Aside from male customers flirting with women bartenders, Baker has witnessed female customers hitting on fellow male co-workers. Girls are more affected by comments than guys, but Baker hears girls who have liquor courage talk about Pawpurr’s male staff in a sexual manner, she said.
“Girls try and push up their boobs and lean over the bar to the guy bartenders. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Girls also say things like “He’s so hot” or “I want to take him home tonight.”
On the other hand, Baker has encountered not-so positive situations from behind the bar. One “creepy” customer in his mid-20s made Baker so uncomfortable that she had to switch sides of the bar because he looked Baker up and down, kept licking his lips and constantly watched her as she worked, she said.
“Let people know they crossed the line in a nice way because you don’t want to lose customers,” Baker said, “and you also don’t want to put up with their shit.”
Another incident when a customer crossed the line — the line being too much alcohol — was when a female customer passed out in one of Pawpurr’s bathroom stalls after closing time.
“I went to go clean the bathrooms and saw her. I went up to her and said, ‘Hey it’s time to go. Do you have a friend for me to call for you?’ You could tell she was blacked out because her pants were down and she basically fell asleep on the toilet,” Baker said. Baker offered to help the intoxicated woman call a friend. The female said she was fine, and Baker still wonders to this day if the woman made it home okay.
Baker gives her two cents on what people should do to be a great customer, along with understanding the proper bar etiquette on Court Street:
- Do tip: It doesn’t have to be a lot. At the end of the night those quarters add up.
- Don’t shake your money in their faces: ”As long as you have your money out, I create a mental line in my head of who is next in line.”
- Don’t be rude.
- Don’t whistle at them: “I’m not a dog, and I don’t appreciate that.”
- Order the same drinks or shots together with your friends even if you’re paying separately: “It gets you your drink faster and saves us time.”
- If you plan on ordering several rounds of drinks or shots and you all want to pay separately, it’s easier for you to each buy a round rather than paying individually for each shot in each round.
- Don’t complain about prices: “It’s so cheap in Athens.”
- Have fun!
What about shaping the customer’s experience? Pawpurr’s customer and OU senior Mike Geise thinks there are qualities women bartenders should have before he orders a drink from them.
“They should be firm, but kind. They shouldn’t be afraid to throw someone out or ask the door or floor guys to step in and handle someone,” said Geise. “Also, the bar comes first before your friends. It is a job still.”
Specifically, Geise enjoys ordering drinks from Baker, his favorite bartender, when she’s working behind Pawburr’s bar.
“Laura is engaging and makes the meanest Jack and Coke in town,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt that her looks match an incredible personality.”
Jumping to another opinion, junior Josh Wilking, an avid CI customer, likes when female bartenders are friendly, play music everyone can sing along to, are fair to customers and are good-looking. One particular bartender who has Wilking’s favorite attributes is Abby Rechel at the CI.
“She is my favorite bartender now because we have been friends for a few years. She is super nice and always plays great music,” he said.
Baker believes her fellow bartenders should be friendly, work fast, and always be themselves. “Don’t let people walk all over you,” Baker said. “Have some backbone.”
Still learning the tricks of the trade, the Pub bartender Katie Derr is considered the rookie since she’s fairly new to the bartending scene with only about five months of experience. Even though she is new, she has worked as a server with Buffalo Wild Wings since she has been 16 years old. She takes her restaurant-bar serving experience and brings her knowledge to the Pub.
However, coming from a serving environment, Derr did something bartenders should never do.
“One time when I was working at the Pub, someone wanted a draft beer when we were changing the kegs. I told the customer that it would just be a minute so he could sit down in the booth and I’d bring it to him,” Derr said. “I went to go give it to him and my manager asked what I was doing. He said, ‘You never leave the bar because they come up to you. You’re not a server here.’”
Derr soon realized she needed to act differently when it comes to serving the customers at a bar compared to the serving philosophy at a restaurant.
“It’s all about serving the customer [at Buffalo Wild Wings] but at the Pub the customers come to and you’re doing them a favor by getting them drinks.”
Since bartenders do customers a favor by making drinks for them, Derr thinks every customer should live by a few of her guidelines:
- Say “please” and “thank you.”
- Tip well.
- Have patience.
- Smile and be happy.
- Be respectful.
Even if customers do not always follow the suggested guidelines, these lady bartenders of Court Street still appreciate their jobs related to Ohio University’s party school atmosphere.
“It is really easy to do, fast-paced and keeps you busy,” Simokov said. “You get out without being out. Instead of going out and spending all of your money and getting violently drunk, you get to stay behind the bar and make a ton of money and see all of your friends at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
“[Bartending at Pawpurr’s] will be the greatest job of my entire life. There’s a deep connection with the people I work with. … It’s a great experience that I’ll be able to carry with me for the rest of my life.”