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More bartending jobs on tap for Arizona

Patrick Night is shown by Mike Nowacki how to eyeball the level of alcohol when pouring drinks in the Bartending Academy in Tempe, Ariz. Night, who was a truck driver for the past 30 years, wants to get out of his cab and meet people. (Photo by Alamri/Arizona Sonora News)

Patrick Night learns from Mike Nowacki how to eyeball the level of alcohol when pouring drinks in the Bartending Academy in Tempe, Ariz. Night, who was a truck driver for the past 30 years, wants to get out of his cab and meet people. (Photo by Alamri/Arizona Sonora News)

Job seekers might want to brush up on their cocktail recipes as Arizona is expected to have the second highest expected growth rate for bartending in the nation for the next decade.

That is good news for Patrick Night, 50, who is training to become a bartender. Night, who was a truck driver for the past 30 years, said he wants to get out of his cab and meet people.

“Being a people’s person, I can introduce myself,” Night said. “(Customers) know me, and I know them, and then I can be surrounded by friends and joy.”

In the next decade, the number of bartending jobs in Arizona is expected to increase from about 10,400 to 13,300, a 28 percent jump, according to the Arizona Department of Administration. This is the second highest growth rate in the nation, after Idaho.

A growing population and economy propel food service jobs, including bartenders, said George Hammond, director of the Economic and Business Research Center in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.

For the past five decades, Arizona had one of the highest job growth rates in the nation, at around 3 to 4 percent annually, said Hammond. In the next two decades, it is expected that the state will be one of the top 10 states in terms of employment growth, Hammond said.

“That is just the way we have been,” he said.

Recently, the National Restaurant Association ranked Arizona as the top in the nation for expected employment growth rate in the food services sector for the next decade. In Arizona, food services jobs are projected to grow by 24 percent, adding 65,000 jobs from 2015 to 2025.

The Arizona growth rate of 28 percent for bartenders is three times the national average, which is 13 percent, according to the National Restaurant Association.

As people move to Arizona for jobs and retirement, the food service employment will expand to accommodate the increased demand, Hammond said. Arizona is ranked the sixth nationally in population growth with around 5 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Currently, Arizona allows 2,125 bars licenses. Phoenix has the most bars with 360, then Tucson with 324, and third is Scottsdale with 176, according to the Arizona Department of Liquor

It is not only bars that employ bartenders because restaurants can obtain licenses to sell alcoholic beverages, said Bill Weigele, executive director of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association. Restaurant liquor licenses require owners to sell 60 percent alcohol and 40 percent food. Some entrepreneurs are buying liquor restaurants licenses instead of bars because they are cheaper.

As restaurant owners seek creative ways to differentiate their business, they venture into combining food with alcoholic beverages, said Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association

About 3,300 restaurants are authorized to sell liquor, according to the Arizona Department of Liquor. From 2007 to 2013, the number of restaurants with liquor licenses increased by 15 percent. There are about 10,000 restaurants total in Arizona, according to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Customers expect to have alcoholic beverage to complement the food, said Derek Pasieka, owner of 800M Milk Bar in Phoenix, which specializes in European food.

Marybell Aquayo practices making margarita in the Bartending Academy in Tempe, Ariz. She wants to be a bartender because it allows her to express her creativity by mixing drinks. (Photo by Alamri/ Arizona Sonora News)

Marybell Aquayo practices making margarita in the Bartending Academy in Tempe, Ariz.
She wants to be a bartender because it allows her to express her creativity by mixing drinks. (Photo by Alamri/ Arizona Sonora News)

“You can’t have Polish food without vodka,” he said.

He chose to obtain a restaurant license to sell liquor because Milk Bar is a space for people to relax and socialize while eating.

“It is not a place for people to get hammered,” he said.

Restaurants tend to employ bartenders to manage the bar because it requires different skills from serving food, said Pasieka. Waiters leave after serving the food, but bartenders are expected to talk with customers and start a conversation between people at the bar, said Brent Pitts of Nori Sushi, a restaurant in Scottsdale.

Bartenders should socialize with customers to get tips and sell more product, said Mike Nowacki, an instructor at the Bartending Academy, Tempe.

To ensure public safety, the state has mandated that bar managers and license owners  must attend a course to spot people who are over drinking, to recognize fake identifications and avoid fights in the bar, said Lee Hill, communication director of the Arizona Department of Liquor.

“It could be watering eyes, it could be flirty speech,” said Hill.

The tourism industry contributes to job growth in restaurants and bars, said Sherry Henry, director of Arizona Office of Tourism. In Arizona, tourists’ second biggest spending is on food service.

Tourists’ direct spending on food service has increased from $2.8 billion in 2004 to $3.7 billion in 2013, representing 24 percent increase, according to data from the Arizona Office of Tourism.

While the number of visitors to central and southern Arizona may decrease with the end of winter, northern Arizona tourism season is in the summer, said Cheryl Cothran, director of the Arizona Hospitality Research and Resource Center at Northern Arizona University.

The summer brings a season with special events for bartenders, such as weddings and graduation parties, said Steve Shliveck director and owner of the Bartending Academy in Tempe.

In Arizona, the majority of bartending training is under $600, and the duration is about a week, said Shliveck. He said it’s important people receive training before taking bartending jobs for the first time to learn the basics, such as mixing popular drinks.

“Otherwise, they would laugh at you,” said Shliveck. “You are hurting the business.”

Marybell Aquayo, a 25-year-old student at the Bartending Academy, wants to be a bartender because it allows her to express her creativity by mixing drinks.

“You get to make colorful drinks,” Aquayo said.

Bartenders can work in a variety of places, ranging from cheap bars to hotels, each frequented by a different type of people, said Night, the former trucker now attending the Bartending Academy. After gaining some experience, Night wants to bartend at different locations for the next 20 years.

“As long my feet get me to the bar that is all that I need,” said Night.

Musherf Alamri is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at alamri@email.arizona.edu.

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