Student bartenders balance pints, academics

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Lorenzo Ramirez, a biochemistry and neuroscience senior, has been a student bartender for three years at the Cactus Cafe. His favorite aspects of the job include the people he meets and the live music scene.
Photo Credit: Samantha Dier | Daily Texan Staff

Late nights, listening to loud music and socializing are all in a day’s work for student bartenders, but their lives are about more than just balancing drink ratios — it’s also about balancing work and academics with some semblance of a personal life.

Students who take up bartending do so to pay off student loans, earn a little extra spending money or help out family back home. Those who pursue this job want to have fun, but often find themselves facing hardships particular to bartending – staying up until odd hours of the morning and finding time for homework are just a few. 

“I got into bartending cause it sounded like a fun thing to do,” said Jim LeMond, a longtime Austin bar owner who got his first experience as a bartender at the Cloak Room while attending UT. “But once I started, I realized it had the potential to be so much more. I made a career out of it.”

LeMond said bar work has its perks because of the inherently social nature of the industry, but admitted bartending as a student requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline.

Lorenzo Ramirez, a biochemistry and neuroscience senior, has learned to easily navigate his triple life as a student, employee and 20-something-year-old. Ramirez is a bartender at UT’s Cactus Cafe and said contrary to what some might believe, his job at UT’s only on-campus bar is actually conducive to his studies.

“Working at a bar has helped me learn the ability to prioritize and organize tasks at hand in a very efficient manner,” Ramirez said.

The on-the-job-quick-thinking nature of bartending has translated positively into other aspects of his life. 

“This aspect of cognition is a muscle, and if you work it over a long period of time, it’ll help you out in other ways,” Ramirez said. “I’ve definitely noticed that my reaction time has gotten shorter, if I knock something over at my apartment I’ll be able easily reach over and catch it.”

Ramirez’s first bartending gig was at the Cactus Cafe. He keeps coming back to it even after working at a number of different bars.

“I like that it’s on campus where I study, but also it has a much different, more relaxed and less ‘fighting’ kind of atmosphere,” Ramirez said. “Downtown you run into a lot more fights, you run into a lot more kids that are going down there on the weekends.”

Ramirez said any job with more liability is likely to be considered a ‘cooler’ one, but it’s sometimes stressful because of the potential problems that could occur if an employee served a drink to a minor or if someone brought in a gun.

Journalism freshman Kathleen Sullivan works at Friends Bar on Sixth Street as a “beer tub girl” and said working on Sixth takes bartending to an extreme level.

“(Sixth) is all chaos all the time,” Sullivan said. “There’s people throwing up in the bathroom until 3 a.m. every night.”

Even so, she says she still wouldn’t trade her job for another, less exciting one. 

“It’s genuinely fun to watch people lose their mind and you get really good at talking to people,” Sullivan said. 

Ramirez said he also thinks the benefits of the job outweigh the cons. 

“I’ve always been a big fan of live music and we have an awesome stage and great sound,” Ramirez said. “Being able to work here, you can hear anything from jazz to great local artists. This is realistically one of the coolest possible jobs I could’ve had in college.”