Bartending in the Age of Donald Trump

BARTENDING IN THE AGE OF DONALD TRUMP

by Ori Geshury

President Donald Trump is everywhere these days and it’s not hard to see why. From the unprecedented campaign, to the most vigorous first weeks of an American Presidency in recent memory, there’s certainly a lot of change going on.  And whether you support him and his policies, disagree completely with everything he stands for and are a safety pin wearing member of the resistance, consider him to be a persuasive genius, or remarkably crass and dangerously ignorant, one this is absolutely certain: You are talking about him and there are huge implications happening across the world--especially for bartenders or people who wish to be bartenders.

We have people at our school that voted and who didn’t vote, who supported Clinton and supported Trump.  I’m not writing to voice an opinion on whether what’s happening is good or bad from a political standpoint, I’m a bartender and I don’t feel qualified to do so.  However, I do want to look at the way Donald Trump is impacting bartending, future job prospects, and how education is affected.

The first part of this article is going to focus on the current dangers you should be aware of that are happening to jobs, bartending or not.  Keep in mind that Donald Trump is not completely responsible for all these factors, they are the result of economic and political trends that have been boiling under the surface for decades.  If reading all of these makes you feel like the walls are closing in, and there is some serious trouble ahead, you’re not alone.  That’s the sentiment shared by the many prospective students we meet and talk to every single day.  I want to share them, not to scare you, but to give you an idea of that challenges that are out there so you can face them head on, and develop a plan to overcome them.

The second part of this article is going to focus on how for so many people, Bartending, and a career in beverage, can be a solution that seems tailor made for problems we seem to all be experiencing. 

PART ONE: THE DANGERS OF DONALD TRUMP


IT WILL GET MORE EXPENSIVE TO LIVE: EVERYTHING FROM GROCERIES, TO ELECTRONICS, TO THE COST OF FOOD WILL INCREASE IF FOREIGN GOODS ARE TAXED

Regardless of whether or not you support Trump’s threats to tax Mexican and Chinese products, it’s important to realize that it can greatly impact the purchasing power of the American consumer for years.  This is because our economy is so intertwined with other countries, that it’s impossible that taxes on their goods will not raise the cost of living for all Americans-at least in the short term.

IT IS MORE LIKELY THAN EVER BEFORE THAT YOU WILL LOSE YOUR LOW SKILLED JOB TO A COMPUTER

Globalization and computerization are threatening more entry level jobs than at any time in American history since the 1970s when we saw the gradual erosion of our manufacturing.  I’ve never seen so many articles on so many different news sources, that all say the same thing: The job market is going to drastically change, and the technology for this to happen is already available. 

Many of our students drive for Uber and Lyft, and we get our fair share of truck drivers as well, and they all are worried about driverless cars, because the technology is already there for safer, more cost effective transportation.  Columbia Professor Hod Lipson has written an amazing book on the subject and his interview with Tucker Carlson is worth a watch.

In addition to that are the more sophisticated robots used in manufacturing, McKinsey and Company, whom we had the pleasure of hosting an event for, even did some fascinating work explaining that up to 59% of manufacturing work is vulnerable to automation over the next ten years.  You can watch a fascinating PBS piece on this here.

And the more vulnerable ones are the one’s lowest on the totem pole.  This week we enrolled two students that all worked in the service industry, one from McDonald’s and one from Chili’s.  And their jobs are threatened by policies that McDonald’s and Chili’s have introduced in response to raising the minimum wage.

In light of these findings, it shouldn’t be surprising to read the results of an Oxford study that almost half of US jobs are vulnerable to computerized automation.  

TRADITIONAL EDUCATION AFTER HIGH SCHOOL HAS NEVER BEEN MORE EXPENSIVE

I’m 33, and of all the changes that have happened in my lifetime, I really can’t think of any as dramatic as how the cost of college is really creating different classes in our society.  It’s getting more and more expensive relative to the rate of inflation and shows no signs of slowing down.  When I was a kid my mom was able to pay for my private school and my dad’s grad school, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in cash without taking out any loans.  We were new to this country and were unable to get credit.  When I was 18, going to Drexel was pricey, but manageable with loans and working retail and summer jobs. 

It’s so different now.  I see single mothers stagnate and take extra classes at community college because completing their Bachelor’s degree seems so out of reach.  I talk to students from schools that were traditionally affordable, like Temple and Drexel where the plurality of our students come from, and see people in their early 20s well into six figures of debt.  A famous Bloomberg report shows just how high college tuitions have grown in the since 1978, 1225%!!!

UNLIKE OBAMA, TRUMP IS WILL REDUCE THE GOVERNMENT’S ABILITY TO SUPPORT YOU IF YOU LOSE YOUR JOB, HAVE TO PAY FOR SCHOOL, OR GET SICK

We don’t need to look at Trump’s zeal to repeal and replace Obamacare or his threats to defund PBS to know that conservatives traditionally like smaller government, and less support for health care, educational infrastructure, and social services.  The truth is that all Republican administrations invest less in financial, educational, and social support than Democratic ones.  These differences are part and parcel of the lines of contention between the two parties.

I’m mentioning this because of how it relates to my last point.  Under a Republican Administration, if you lose your job or get hurt, you will have less support from the state to help you succeed.  With the rise of automation, and the cost of higher education, this can create a perfect storm that wrecks our notions of economic and social mobility for Americans entering the workforce.

PART II: IS ALCOHOL A SOLUTION? HOW BARTENDING CREATES SUCCESS STORIES

While a chemist would certainly agree that alcohol is a solution, I want to explain what I mean

THERE IS GOOD MONEY IN BARTENDING

It’s relatively easy in a major city to be able to make $20-30 an hour as a bartender.  We know dozens of graduates from Aqua Vitae that make over 80k a year.  Jim Meehan talks about this in his groundbreaking presentation about the rise of the career craft cocktail bartender and the importance of health.  He says that bartenders should worry about health because many of them finish college and find that their income opportunities are greater for doing a job they love, than a soulless corporate job their degrees have qualified them for.  He cites a 60k a year figure in New York City, which I would say is even conservative for that area. 

BARS PROVIDE UNLIMITED OPPORTUNITIES FOR NETWORKING AND FOSTERING INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS

I remember a student of ours in the 90s who worked at the Pyramid Club specifically to get access to the lawyers and firms she wanted to apply for upon finishing law school.  My mom was able to support the family by giving her business cards away at the convention center and decorating people’s houses.  Since then, we’ve had hundreds of personal trainers, hairdressers, musicians, actors, dancers, writers etc. leverage their ability to bartend into developing and maintaining business connections and even romantic relationships.

One topic that isn’t explored enough is how positive reinforcement (getting a higher tip) for charisma, great technique, and persuasion can change someone’s ability to deal with people over months and years.  When I was writing the bar psychology portion of the textbook and researching authors like Cialdini, and the famous Cornell restaurant study  where a woman wearing a flower in her hair made 17% more tips, and teaching them to our students, I found that bartenders who had been in the industry for a year or so did most of these things automatically. 

It’s not hard to see why, people can lie and smile and laugh, but if they come to see you and tip you well it’s a clear sign of appreciation that cannot be faked.  This allows bartenders to more accurately judge how their attitudes and habits affect other people than the rest of us, which give them an advantage in every other area of their life.

There’s something else going on here too.  In the movie Crazy Stupid Love, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell do most of their dating in one swanky bar.  Watch the clip and imagine you are a bartender in a bar like this.  In a year you’d see not just hundreds but thousands of first dates, business meetings, interactions between human beings that go well and go poorly. 

What do you think would happen to your ability to form relationships, and nail an interview for any job you wanted?

(Side note: The Old Fashioned scene in Crazy Stupid Love is one of the few examples of cocktails in movies that really works.)

BARTENDING PROVIDES THE OPPORTUNITY TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER

If you’ve ever seen the movie Cocktail you’ve got a pretty good idea of how bartending worked in the 90s and early 00s.  While there were some great bartenders out there, and David Wondrich was writing for esquire as a voice in the wilderness very early on, there just wasn’t too much innovation going on.  The best bartenders lifted weights, flipped bottles, worked fast, and eventually started their own bars.  Luis Bermudez, our old head instructor and former Head Bartender at Cuba Libre, exemplifies the absolute pinnacle of success here.  He got into bartending after the Navy, won best Bartender in Philadelphia in a competition at the legendary 90s nightclub/palace Egypt, started a bar with Diego from top 40 radio station Q102, became a firefighter, and now owns properties all over Philadelphia, Miami, and Costa Rica. 

But the differences now are incredible.  Never before have there been so many opportunities for bartenders to advance, bar management, brand ambassadorship, competitions, lectures, writing reporters on HARO.  The options for bartenders who want to advance without shelling our half a million dollars and risking everything to open a bar are tremendous.

Luciano Spensierato, who took classes with us when he came over from Italy, and whom we helped get a job at Xfinity Live when they did job fairs before they opened, and currently helms the exceptional bar program at Gran Caffe L’Aquila, is an example of how a bartender can increase his standing.  Jeff Bowell, who moved to Las Vegas, helped open Revel in Atlantic City, and now NOTO in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, is another good example.

BARTENDERS CANNOT BE REPLACED OR OUTSOURCED, BECAUSE PEOPLE DON’T GO TO BARS TO DRINK ALCOHOL

I recently read a great article by sfgate on why people go to bars.  San Francisco is considered a first tier city in the bar and restaurant industry, with its higher income residents, emphasis on locally sourcing fresh ingredients, and care in presentation, you’d think the experience of food and drink would be at the forefront of the article, instead the author writes:

"to work, talk, cheat, chat, smoke, investigate, read, stare, eat, fight, study, use free Wi-Fi, listen to music, be the old dude at the bar, ask for directions, meet a friend, make a friend, borrow money, have fun, and sometimes because there is just nothing else to do."

This really goes to the heart of what I’m trying to explain.  We can’t turn into computers, and we don’t have much control of political and economic change.  But we can leverage our own humanity, build our own network of friends and allies, and create opportunities for us to make money now and later, all by embracing a job that let’s us do all of these things simultaneously: Bartending.   

Because of all these reasons, a part time job or career in Bartending has never been more attractive.  However, I do want to end with one more thing:

LEARNING TO BARTEND IS INCREDIBLY CHEAP

Unlike traditional education, that balloons in price year after year, you can study at Aqua Vitae Institute for under a thousand dollars. By the end of it you will feel confident enough to work behind any bar.

If you’ve gotten to the end of this article, it’s certain that you’re at least a little bit curious about how we can help you reach your goals through bartending.  I really encourage you to reach out to us here!

Related: Bartending School information