The Heel, a new bar and grill on Rosemary Street, employs student bartenders in Chapel Hill, including senior exercise and sport science major Giuli Lurito.
Lurito said she loves bartending and plans to continue doing so after graduation.
“It’s just so much fun,” she said. “The environment is great — I love the people I work with, and you get paid for having fun. I love everything about it. By far one of my favorite jobs that I’ve ever had.”
For Michael Meadows, general manager at Linda’s Bar and Grill on East Franklin Street, having students behind the bar allows him to create a direct relationship with the University.
“Being right across from campus and being such a huge part of UNC, we really like to be a part of the community in as many ways as possible,” Meadows said.
“Having students here allows us to have more insight to events that are coming up, preparing us for things like senior week events and things like that — any changes in the normal academic schedule that would affect us.”
Many student bartenders work behind the bar to get themselves through school, but for some, bartending is more than just a job.
Jackie Lawrence, a PhD student in psychology, works as a bartender at Four Corners Grille. She said being a bartender is satisfying because she has the power to create a positive experience for customers.
“You get to show people a good time,” she said. “You get to be the center of it all, and it’s because of you that other people are having a good time. It’s a great feeling to know that.”
Lurito said she takes her job to the next level by incorporating mixology into her bartending job.
“It takes a lot of time learning about liquors — learning about what tastes good together,” she said. “You have to taste test a lot of different drinks to understand this combination doesn’t work, and this one does work.”
Lawrence said she enjoys experimenting with different drinks and has one of her martini recipes published.
“There are bartenders out there who just care about getting drinks out,” she said. “They don’t care about what the drink tastes like. But a good mixologist will want their guests to have a good experience and enjoy what they’re drinking and sipping on.”
But striking the perfect balance between school and work can be difficult, especially with the late hours and long shifts that come with working at a bar.
Vallari Eastman, a senior psychology major, said she will have to work hard to keep her grades up while working at Linda’s.
“I’m a little worried about that this semester,” she said. “Last Saturday, I got out of here at 4:30 a.m., but it looks like I’ll be working mostly weekends so I don’t think it’ll be too hard to balance it.”
Lawrence said despite years of experience, it’s difficult to juggle life as a student and as a bartender.
“In Miami, I was working at three different bars during my undergrad, and that was extremely tough, too,” she said.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when you’re paying for college yourself — it’s expensive.”