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Marina Stevens pours a drink at Courtside Pizza on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Stevens has worked at C-side since last summer and usually works busy night shifts during the school year.

Female bartenders talk customer interactions, safety concerns

The atmosphere of a bar can be fun, but it can also bring outrageous customers, safety issues, harassment and possible danger. For women who are bartenders, those concerns are just another day on the job. 

Marina Stevens, a senior studying chemistry, started working at Courtside Pizza, 85 N. Court St., in summer 2021. She had never worked as a bartender before, but she said she thought it would be a good fit for her schedule. 

“I don’t go out a lot,” Stevens said. “So, I felt it was a better way to utilize my time on the weekends because that’s the only time I work.”

During the school year, Stevens typically works closing shifts and said she has never felt worried about working so late at night because of protocols the staff has put in place. She said all of the staff walks home together at night, and male bouncers usually do shift work like taking out the garbage. 

While Stevens has never had to deal with concerns like closing the bar alone, it’s a different story for other bartenders in Athens. 

Jennifer Cochran is the former general manager of Cat’s Corner, 110 W. Union St., and a former bartender at Lucky’s Sports Tavern, 11 N. Court St. She started working at the latter in 2015 before leaving to work for Cat’s Corner during the pandemic. 

Although Cochran usually closed the bar by herself at Cat’s Corner, looking back now, she said it probably was not the safest for her to do. 

“Cat’s Corner has eight cameras pointing at all entrances, at all corners of that bar you could possibly be in, so I usually felt pretty safe,” Cochran said. “But really, I mean, that was a horrible practice for me.” 

Cochran felt comfortable walking home alone after work because she knew the area. However, her perspective on the issue has changed as she has gotten older. 

“I have been lucky enough to have never been in a stupid position where I have been assaulted or confronted after work, walking home,” Cochran said. “But, as a mother, as a long time bartender in Athens (and) as a manager, I also think my actions were probably reckless.”

Cochran decided to make sure her bartenders were protected when managing Cat’s Corner. 

“Being a manager definitely changed how I view the bartending and the safety of my bartenders,” Cochran said. “I’m much more protective of my bartenders being safe, which is why I would get up and come back to close with them rather than have them be by themselves.”

While Stevens has not worked as a bartender for as long as Cochran, she has seen serious issues like customers being too drunk or someone who’s noticeably uncomfortable. She said, however, the worst issue is rude and aggressive behavior from customers. 

“There have been people that get in fights, and you either have to push them out of the patio or push them out of the bar,” Stevens said. “It definitely doesn’t happen as much as I thought it would, and our bouncers usually (are) heavily involved in fights for running and getting them out.” 

Both Stevens and Cochran said they frequently experience sexual harassment. Stevens said it's common for customers to flirt with her or grab her hand while handing them their receipt, but customers have never gotten “too crazy.” 

“They will ask for discounts. They’ll ask if you can put more alcohol in their drinks because it’s not strong enough. It’s a job where it’s like, if you’re too nice and too friendly, that’s when people start being rude to you because you are serving alcohol.”

Unfortunately, Cochran said some of her experiences with customers have not been as tame. 

“There is no end to things that have happened over the years,” Cochran said, “People sticking their hand up my skirt or down my shirt or leaving their phone number and $1. They (have) behaved badly as I’ve gotten older.” 

Cochran said she has gotten better at handling uncomfortable situations with customers over the years, but that has not stopped their frequency.

“I would openly say it’s happened at every bartending job I’ve almost ever had,” Cochran said. “Men are very, very entitled about what they’re allowed to say to women. The entitlement comes with how people think they’re allowed to speak to serving staff, that their $2 entitles them to say what they want — like we’re not human beings.” 

Although there are many concerns with working as a female bartender, both Cochran and Stevens said they have had a great experience doing so. Nevertheless, Stevens said it’s a job where customers will exploit you if possible. 

Stevens said the biggest advice she can give to other female bartenders is to not be too friendly with customers. 

“There are definitely people that will take advantage of you,” Stevens said. “They will ask for discounts. They’ll ask if you can put more alcohol in their drinks because it’s not strong enough. It’s a job where it’s like, if you’re too nice and too friendly, that’s when people start being rude to you because you are serving alcohol.” 


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