As the sun goes down and night draws near, a small percentage of the San Luis Obispo population prepares for the rush that is about to hit. The mass of people who have left the “underage” category flock to the bars downtown while the bartenders stand ready.
As alcohol flows, credit cards swipe and cash exchanges hands. A little bit of this mixed with a little bit of that, and a splash of lime – the bartenders downtown have the power, and they control all bar patrons.
However, these are not your average bartenders – they are women working in an industry typically dominated by men.
Megan Murphy, a bartender at Mother’s Tavern, said she has no real advantage over her male coworkers. Although she says she “can get more tips out of guys,” Murphy said women are not as trusted behind the bar when situations get out of hand with intoxicated customers.
Murphy also said it can be harder for women to get bartending jobs unless they have previous connections with management.
All of the major bars in downtown San Luis Obispo have at least two female bartenders on staff. The Library Lounge has the highest percentage with six of seven bartenders being women, while at Native Restaurant and Lounge, only two of 10 are women.
A female bartender who works at both Marti’s Bar and Grill and the Library Lounge, and wished to remain anonymous, said she feels she “has an edge” over male bartenders. She admitted she can exploit her sexuality and femininity to get more tips from male customers. However, she said it is harder for women to “work their way up” in the male-dominated industry.
Lauren, a Library Lounge bartender who wanted to withhold her last name, said she felt there was “not really an advantage” to being a female bartender.
She said she knows “males make more money” than her while doing the same job but that it all comes down to the customers. Lauren explained that her customers know she does not “dress super-sexy to get tips,” but added that she does sometimes see sexism within the company.
According to on-duty bartenders at various downtown establishments, women generally comprise less than half the bartenders on staff. Downtown Brewing Co. and Frog & Peach boast the highest percentages with women making up half of the total bartending employees.
But it is more common for women to account for approximately one-third of all bartenders, such as at the following bars: Marti’s Bar and Grill, Bull’s Tavern, McCarthy’s Irish Pub, Black Sheep Bar & Grill, and Mother’s Tavern.
A male bartender at McCarthy’s Irish Pub who also wished to remain anonymous said bartending is a “sexist job” and that he has the advantage over female bartenders.
He explained that in terms of getting more tips, “guys can get along with guys, and guys can get along with girls” and “girls can get along with guys, but girls cannot get along with girls.”