Managing a bar or club is a high-profile job, but don’t let anyone tell you it is glamorous. “When you have to, you do everything from carrying kegs of beer up flights of stairs to mopping up spills,” mentioned one bar manager. At the end of the night, the responsibility for the smooth functioning, and on some levels, the profitability, of the bar or club rests with the manager. Club managers have a significant degree of input on the attitude and operation of the club, and can impress their sensibility on the patrons’ experiences. “You can give them the night you always wanted,” said one, “and that feels great.” The most enjoyable aspect about being a club or bar manager is the creativity the profession entails. Most work closely with owners on developing marketing strategies based around theme nights, entertainment, advertising, and special events. Financial analysis skills-basic cost benefit analysis, for the most part-are important for club and bar managers to propose interesting yet fiscally sound marketing schemes. Such events as “Open-mike Nights,” “Happy Hours,” and “Couples Night” all are examples of themes that many clubs and bars find successful in attracting new patrons. The bar and club manager must be creative in these ways without sacrificing the attention to detail that is the day-to-day nature of the profession.
Bar or club managers must be comfortable with people-from the professionals they work with-accountants, wait staff, suppliers, and government regulators (including representatives from the liquor, fire, sanitation, and health departments)-to the patrons they entertain. Managers must understand local regulations and accounting procedures to ensure the establishment functions legally and smoothly. According to our survey, most people thought the job would be fun-which many say it is-but they didn’t understand the degree of responsibility it required. “You have so much to keep track of. Everything is important,” said one club manager. Managers must be comfortable claiming and enforcing authority as the liaison between the owners of the establishment and the employees.
There is no specific educational requirement to become a bar or a club manager, but most have a high school education and many have some college accounting, finance, or management coursework. Work experience is more important than educational requirements. Employers seek those who have experience managing others and keeping track of large budgets and inventories, and who have generally demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility. The workday usually extends from late afternoon to late into the night, and weekends are regularly part of established shift schedules. Those who leave the profession often cite “schedule” as a significant reason for their departure.
The organizational aspects of bar and club managing equip ex-managers for inventory control positions, staff management positions, human resource departments, and employment companies. Others use their patron-relations skills as party planners, caterers, public relations professionals, and salesmen. Note that many of these related occupations require a different level of educational achievement than bar and club manager. Only a limited percentage of those employed as bar and club managers see it as a career profession, mainly because only certain establishments offer positions with any benefits whatsoever.