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Vegas Bartending: Working as a Bartender in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Bartender

So, you want to be a bartender? More specifically, you want to be a bartender in glittering Las Vegas? 

There is no job like it, and there is nothing quite like bartending in Las Vegas. Yes, you can job being a bartender in almost any city in the world; after all, there are bar’s everywhere, right? But this is VEGAS!

So what makes Vegas a mecca for bartenders?

Location, Location, Location! Simply put, there is no other city live this in the world. There are free standing bars throughout the city, but there are also multiple bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and lounges in every hotel and Casino in the city. From Las Vegas Strip showrooms, world-famous restaurants, and nightclubs to being a private bartender at conventions, parties, weddings and events, there are opportunities everywhere. 

What does it take to be a Bartender in Las Vegas

There are advantages and disadvantages to bartending in Las Vegas, and a lot of this can depend on the location of where you are bartending. 

If you are working on the strip, or in an area where tourists frequent, then one of the biggest advantages is the number of high rollers – or people who want to pretend to be high rollers — which pass through town.  That can make the opportunity for tips higher than almost any other place in the world.  Las Vegas is known for being a place where people come to party and have a good time, and most people know that while they may not tip much back in their home town, Vegas is a tipping mecca. 

How much does a bartender make in Las Vegas?

Bartending salaries are going to vary based on where you actually work, but let’s look at some baseline averages.

Almost everyone in the entertainment and travel industry receives tips so bartenders who are serving drinks all night long will have a better chance of making good tips.  The average salary for a Las Vegas bartender ranges from $18,588 to $27,673 without tips figured in.  However, if you include the amount that can be made in tips, the salary raises to $45,000 to $73,000 or even more. 

How Tips and Tips Shares work in Las Vegas

Some states have a “tip credit” which means that the employer can pay the bartender less than minimum wage and their tips can make up the difference.  Luckily, Nevada does not have tip credits, so that is a huge plus for bartending in Las Vegas.

But keep in mind, different bars handle tipping differently.  Some employers allow the bartender to keep their own tips, but many require a tip pool where everyone puts their tips together and split them at the end of the night.  This is something that happens in Las Vegas, but if you are working at a high-end bar, or have a regular steady clientele, you can still make plenty of tip money with the nightly split. 

You also have the potential to make better tips if you are a good bartender. 

What makes a good bartender in Las Vegas? 

Bar with Bottles

Obviously, you need to be friendly but not TOO friendly. 

There is the old story about people pouring their hearts out to bartenders but not the other way around.  Bartenders should not share too much about themselves unless the customer is asking questions.  Most people visiting Las Vegas are looking for the ultimate good time and nothing too deep.  But a big smile and friendly attitude are extremely valuable for a Las Vegas bartender. 

Also, serving good quality drinks in a timely manner are the signs of a good bartender.  People hate to wait for anything, and that includes their drinks.  A fast and efficient bartender will definitely get better tips. 

How to increase your Tips: Being knowledgeable about all things Vegas is also helpful. 

Customers will often ask about the best shows in town, and if you can give them recommendations, they will be grateful.  Even better, if the show is located in the hotel where you bartend, you can tell them to come back and see you after the show, improving your sales and tips.  Another thing that customers often ask about is restaurant recommendations.  A good bartender should know the cheapest and best places to eat (they are not always the same place!). 

Tourists enjoy walking around the strip but don’t like to venture too far, so bartenders should have lots of ideas for places near where they work.  Learn about the restaurants, shows, locations of the gambling tables and machines. 

One last tip on valuable information for bartenders – wear a watch.  Las Vegas is well known for having no clocks!  People will keep right on gambling, drinking and eating when they do not realize what time it is.  So if they really need to know the time for some reason, like to start of a show or movie they are planning to go to, they will ask a bartender for the time.

Private Bartenders and Bartending Private Events

Bartender at a Las Vegas Convention
We are bar central; in fact, even the Nightclub and Bar Show comes to Las Vegas for their annual convention. So on top of being a good place to work, it’s also a great place to learn and network with industry people from around the world.

Another great thing about Vegas is it’s one of the best places for a bartender to spread his entrepreneurial wings and go into business for himself. On a daily basis, there are thousands of conventions, private events, after-parties, weddings, divorce parties, and just about any party you can think of, and they are all looking for private bartenders.

Once you have experience, I advise looking into starting your own side hustle, which could end up as the next million dollar venture or business.

How to get a job as a Bartender in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Welcome Sign

How do you even get started?  Looking good and remembering how to mix a good screwdriver from college is not enough.  There are some requirements you need to meet before you can work in the bartending field in Las Vegas.

Bartending Schools in Las Vegas

There are two “schools” of thought on bartending school in Las Vegas.  There are lots of bartending schools in Las Vegas, and you can peruse the internet to determine which one might be best for you.  If you enjoy learning things by the book, then bartending school could be good for you. 

Formal training is best for some people and especially if you are new to the business.  Otherwise, some seasoned bartenders say that a person only learns bad habits in bartending school.  The truth is surely a mix of the two.  Some formal training could be good to learn the standard cocktails but using your instincts and learning on the job is also important. 

Many of the clubs, bars, and restaurants in Las Vegas also have specialty cocktails that are unique to their establishments so going to a bartending school will not help with those.  There is a learning curve at any new job and bartending in Las Vegas is no exception.  You will need to learn your employer’s menu and the exact way to make their drinks.

Las Vegas Bartending requirements and Licensing:

First of all, you must be 21 to serve alcohol, and that includes food servers who serve alcohol as well as bartenders. 

A Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) card is mandatory for all bartenders in Las Vegas. 

Additionally, bartenders are required to get a TAM (techniques of alcohol management) card.  This card can be obtained online which is $24.95 or in-person training, which costs $35.00.  The TAM card only needs to be renewed every four years.  You can get your TAM Card Here.

This may be all you need if you work in a free-standing bar that does not serve food. 

Working in a Casino? Then you need a Sheriff’s card

A Sheriff’s card is also required for anyone working in a casino, so if you bartend in a casino, then you will need this card as well.  The cost is $44.00 and only needs to be renewed every three years.  You can apply for your
Sheriff’s card Here.

And, finally, if you work in an establishment where you will have to serve food as well as drinks, you will need a Food Handler’s Health Card.

A health card will cost $40.  $20 goes toward the card, and $20 goes toward the training. You can apply for your Health Card Here.

What you can expect being a bartender in Vegas? Pros and Cons of the Job.

Now that you have the pre-employment requirements taken care of, what else do you need to know?   There is probably much more than you need to know that we can list here, but we will give you some idea of the things you may encounter as a Las Vegas bartender. 

When to say when?  Las Vegas is called Sin City for a reason.  People flock to the bars in Las Vegas so they can have a good time and sometimes that good time gets out of control.  Telling someone that you think they have had enough to drink is not always easy. 

Timing is pivotal.  When you see a patron getting to the point of being too drunk, you can forewarn them that the next drink will be their last.  Remember to be super friendly and make it about both of you.  “Sir, this next drink will be your last for a while.  You want to be able to stay out and have some more fun, but you won’t be able to if you get too drunk.  I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your trip to Vegas.” 

Countless Las Vegas bartenders can tell you some of their funny or tragic stories of how people react to being “cut off.”  Some people appreciate the concern and some will curse you out.  One bartender recalls cutting off a group of ladies who were in Vegas for a bachelorette party.  The bride had clearly had too much to drink, and when he cut her off, she took her last shot, threw up in the shot glass and gave it back to him!  You never know how people will react to being cut off so just be ready.

What other kinds of things will a Las Vegas bartender experience? 

It’s not all glitz and glamour, so let’s take a realistic look at some of the things you might encounter. The good, the bad, and the ugly!

  • You may be asked to get rid of over eager men and women hitting on each other. 
  • You will be asked for advice on the best entertainment in town (keep in mind that in Vegas that means legal and illegal activities).  Don’t do anything stupid, despite what some tourists may think, we do have limits here in Vegas!
  • Las Vegas bartenders can be asked for strip club information, if people are allowed to skinny dip in the hotel pool, and a whole host of other crazy questions.
  • You will have credit cards declined and you then get the pleasure of breaking that bad news to the customer.  Some of these things can be found in any bar, and some things just seem like a Vegas staple.

Vegas bartenders have to turn people away for being underage or having fake identification.  One Las Vegas bartender (we will call him Todd Jones) tells an amazing story of losing his wallet while out running some errands.  He had to get a new driver’s license and credit cards. 

Not more than a week later, he is tending bar, and a young guy comes in who definitely does not look like he is old enough to be drinking.  He asks the guy for ID, and the guy pulls out a driver’s license, grinning the entire time because he thinks this is his big change.  The name on the ID is Todd Brown, and the bartender’s photo is staring back at him. This kid found Todd’s wallet at a store and kept the ID so he could get into bars! 

Steer Clear of Drama!

This is the bar industry, so just like everywhere else, there will be workplace drama. Keep yourself far from those conflicts and spend your time focusing on and chatting up your customers instead.  This will benefit you in what you can earn in tips and in longevity at your job. 

Nevada is an at-will state, so you don’t want to take the chance of losing a great position.  You can be good at your job and still find yourself on the unemployment line if you get involved in nonsense at work. 

Are there Perks to working in Vegas?

There are a lot of perks to being a bartender in Las Vegas.  Bartenders that work in casinos have another type of benefit on top of the usual tips.  Many of the bars that are located inside of casinos have gaming machines right at the seats of the bar.  When someone sits at the bar and receives great service while they are gambling, you have a much better shot at getting an additional tip if they win some money. 

Once they walk away from your bar and into the casino, any tips from their winnings will go to the cocktail waitress or casino attendants.  If you can manage to keep your customer happy while gambling right at your bar, you can get a tip for your service and maybe a little something extra if they win.  One woman who is a regular at her local casino bar said the highest tip she ever gave the bartender was $3,000!  That is well worth the time spent chatting up the customer and providing quick and delicious drinks.  That is a Las Vegas perk!

Another cool perk for Vegas bartenders (if you are into celebrities) is the opportunity to see quite a few famous people. 

Although there are no guarantees and you can also spot celebs if you work in California, Las Vegas has TONS of celebrity sightings.  Bartending at one of the clubs inside of the casinos is the best chance you will have to see an A or B list celebrity. 

Many of them get paid just for making an appearance in these clubs.  These can range from a hanger-on in the Kardashian circles to a real star like Jack Nicholson.  Many of the award shows are now filmed in Las Vegas, and if the stars come for those awards, they may be in town and day or two before or after the show, and they will head out on the town. 

You will do well to be discreet when they see stars at their bars.  Not everyone wants their business to be spread around or in the press, so if you can provide great service and keep quiet, you may have some recurring customers of the famous variety.

You will see locals!

Speaking of recurring customers, Las Vegas has a lot of locals that spend time in the various bars, and this makes up a great deal of the customers.  A regular can be a great source of income for a bartender if they come in often, tell others about the place, and tip well. 

Word of mouth is everything in Las Vegas bars.  People will tell their friends and family the best places to go and if your regulars like you then you will increase your business and your paycheck.  Regulars and even those who come in for one night but spend a long time at your bar, love to be recognized and have you remember things about them. 

If you know what a regular drinks, the name of their spouse, where they work or what they like to snack on while they drink, it will go a long way to them returning to see you.  If someone comes in for only one night, but you remember their drink order throughout the night and keep them coming, they will be back the next night or the next time they are in town, and they will tell others to do the same. 

Typical Bartending Hours in Las Vegas

One last thing to consider when deciding to be a bartender in Las Vegas is the hours and days you may be working. 

There is no such thing as a nine to five job when you work in this industry.  Las Vegas is a twenty-four-hour town and casinos are open every single day of the year.  A bartender could be working all night long and have to sleep during the day.  They may have to work on Christmas day and Easter Sunday. 

As with any job, once you have some seniority, you may be able to ask for a daily schedule and to have holidays off, but it will take some time before you are in a position to ask for those perks.  And while day shifts may be nice for keeping a steady schedule and family life, they are not typically going to be the shifts where you make the most in tips.  Yes, in Las Vegas you have a much better chance of having a stream of customers coming in all day long so you will still get more tips than any other city.  But the nightlife in Las Vegas is where you will see the most customers, both local and tourists, and that’s where the largest potential for tips comes from. 

Moving to Las Vegas for a Bartending Job: What does the Housing Market Look Like?

The current housing market in Las Vegas is quite good too, and that makes for another reason why a bartender may want to live and work in this city.  Just a few years ago, the housing prices had gotten so high that it was nearly impossible to buy a nice home.  Recently, however, the prices have been coming down, so it is a much better time to move to Las Vegas in the hopes of finding something reasonably priced.  If you are moving here from somewhere like California, then the cost of living could be half of what you are currently paying.

Much to the surprise of those who don’t know the city well, there are lots of great single and family oriented communities in Las Vegas.  And with the expansion of freeways over the past few years, a bartender can easily get to the Strip within 20 minutes from nearly any part of the city.

Is bartending in Las Vegas a good job? 

Yes, for those who like to spend time with people and have the type of personality that can deal with every walk of life. These are the types of people who make it in this town, and they are also the ones who will get the most tips. 

Is Las Vegas a better city to be a bartender than others?

Yes, because there is never a lack of places to work.  There are bars everywhere throughout the city, and you don’t have to work on the busy Las Vegas strip or downtown Vegas in order to find something lucrative. 

Las Vegas is fast becoming a city filled with high-end culinary experiences, and all of those restaurants and clubs have bars as well.  Just like any position, longevity looks great on a resume so even though there are lots of places for bartenders to work in Las Vegas, don’t job hop from one place to the next.  It is advisable to work somewhere for at least a year before you consider moving on.  Not only does it show your commitment, but it gives you a chance to learn before you try something new.

Some inside advice…

The best advice you can get as a Las Vegas bartender is to be prepared with the proper work cards, know your drinks, focus on your customers and expect the unexpected. 

Las Vegas can be a wild town, and you never know what you may encounter, whether you bartend in an off-strip bar, a local restaurant, a nightclub or a casino.  You don’t have to work at a bar that conducts wet t-shirt contests to see some crazy things that you wouldn’t have seen back home in Kansas.  If you can handle anything and create quality cocktails, then Las Vegas can be one of the best places to be a bartender.