Judging from the number of
e-mails I've received asking how to be a Vegas cocktail
waitress, I can only assume that people aren't really reading my
web site. Or they're masochists. Whatever. So I've compiled a
little guide as to how to break into the business. Keep in
mind, just like the rest of my web site, I'm not speaking as an
authority on this topic, just from what I know to be true.
I'm not trying to be a
bitch but please, please, please stop e-mailing me to ask
questions I've already answered on this page. Occasionally
I get e-mails that ask a question I haven't answered.
Actually, I think I've gotten only one of those. But
others are more like the one I just received: "I'm only 19, can
I be a cocktail waitress?" Yes, dear, but you must move to
You must be 21 years
old or older.
This seems like a given,
but you never know.
Get your cards.
You will need two work
cards: a health card and an alcohol awareness card.
A health card can be
obtained by going to the Health Department, paying a $35.00 fee,
watching a movie on safe food handling, and getting a shot.
They used to let you pay $5.00 and skip the movie, but now you
are forced to sit through the 2-hour snoozer. They give you a
schedule of movie times, and it's also available in Spanish.
You might want to watch the Spanish one just for kicks. Anyway,
like the DMV, the line is usually long and you can't make an
appointment, so be prepared to waste a few hours there. You
have to renew the card every 3 years. Be careful of the V.D.
clinic just down the hall.
An alcohol awareness card
can be obtained by attending a class given by any certified
instructor. The most well-known in town is TAM of Nevada, but
there are others that may cost less and the classes are less
crowded. There is a fee and the class is roughly 4 hours. The
instructor will give you the basics of the laws of NV, how to
spot a drunk, underage drinking, and you may have to watch a
movie. At the end of the class you will be given a test which
you have to pass. Everyone passes. You can call to get class
times and fees, and they don't take reservations. The cards
have to be renewed every 5 years The renewal class is 2 hours.
Cocktail waitresses used
to also be required to have a Sheriff's card, but that no longer
applies. However, bartenders still have to have these. For
jobs that require a Sheriff's card, you have to be hired first
before you can get a referral to get one.
You will have to take a
picture for these cards too, so smile pretty!
I suggest that you have
these cards in hand when you apply for a job. The applications
will ask if you have them and what your I.D. numbers are. If
you are hired, you'll have to get these cards for sure, so it
always looks better if you're already prepared. Also, if
it's between you and another girl for the job and you have your
cards, that may be the deciding factor. You will never do
worse by being more prepared.
Join the union.
Whether or not you are a
"union" person, joining the Culinary Union will help you
tremendously when applying for a job. Most of the big casinos
are union, which means they can only hire union members. Union
dues are taken out monthly as a payroll deduction. If you
decide to work at a non-union casino, being part of the union
won't hurt you, so that won't matter.
When you join the union,
they will send you out to casinos that are hiring. Even though
you can't afford to be too picky at this point, ask if the
casino is in a "safe" location, or if you want to be blunt, if
it's a dive. No job is worth your risking your safety, and
chances are, if it's not on or near the south side of The Strip
(starting from Sahara Ave.), or a big casino downtown, or
another "well-known" name, you'd be better off waiting for
another job opening. Or if you want to see for yourself but
feel scared for your life as you're driving there, turn around,
go home and call the union and tell them that you wouldn't feel
safe working there. They will understand, believe me! Having
said that, most nicer and bigger casinos won't even interview
you if you don't have at least 6 months casino
cocktailing experience. (The union will only send you to a
casino to fill out the application, they don't set up
interviews.) This means that even if you've cocktailed or bartended
somewhere else for your whole life, it may not mean a damn thing
to a casino. It's just a different atmosphere and procedure
when you're working in a place where you have to work with so
many departments, laws, and being inundated with people from all
over the world.
You can apply on your own
without a referral from the union, but it may be a waste of
time. If you do go door-to-door you may find that most casinos
won't even let you fill out an application if they're not
currently hiring for cocktail waitresses. You can apply at
non-union places too, of course, but they will probably also
want 6 months experience. Most casinos have a web site, so you
can fill out an application online.
There are a couple of ways
you can join a union casino without joining the union first. If
you are juiced in or just lucky enough to be hired, you will be
sent to the union afterwards to join, then you can be officially
hired. If a casino hasn't opened yet and is taking
applications, they can hire whoever they want. After they
open, you have the option of joining the union if you want to.
It's very hard to get into a brand new casino. Most of them
hire or transfer employees from other properties, and they can
get 30,000 or more applications for new hires.
A little known fact, one
that the union doesn't want people to know, is that once you are
hired at a union casino, you can drop out of the union and stop
paying dues and it will have no affect on your employment
status. You will also continue to receive all the benefits of a
union employee including the pay rate, insurance, and union
representation. So why stay in the union? I look at it as the
right thing to do. There are very different opinions as to just
how useful a union is, and I'm not interested in debating the
issue here, so let's just say my opinion is if you're benefiting
from their services, you should pay the dues. Here is
web site for more information.
Get juiced in.
If you get juiced in, you
don't have to worry about experience or the union. Depending on
how high up your juice is, you may have to prove yourself to
keep your job once you're in. If you're the casino owner or
CEO's daughter, you're probably untouchable. But then, why the
hell would you want to cocktail for a living? If you're a
friend of the beverage manager's neighbor, you may get the job,
but it'll be up to you how long you'll keep it. If you do get
juiced in, no matter who you know, do yourself a favor and keep
that information to yourself. Eventually word will get around,
but it's just in bad taste to flaunt it. And if for some reason
your juice gets fired or leaves, your job may now be in jeopardy
if people don't like you. If a casino really wants to get rid
of you, they can. This is a right to work state, so be a good
worker if you really want to keep your job.
Are you a pothead,
Drug tests are mandatory,
so kiss Mary Jane good-bye. I'm not sure how far back the tests
can go, but they test your hair, and I've heard it's got a six
month history. If you have to smoke pot for medical reasons,
I'm not sure how that's handled. The lab
techs aren't interested in hearing your sob stories, so don't
even bother. And by the way, those pills that promise to erase
all traces of drugs are a scam.
shouldn't be a problem. They don't tell you what they're
looking for, but I'm assuming it's just recreational illegal
drugs. They have to pay for each drug being tested, so I can't
imagine that they say, "Test for everything."
How's your credit?
They will run a background
check on you including your credit report and criminal
activities. Bad credit may not hurt you, but filing bankruptcy
could. I guess they assume that anyone who files bankruptcy may
be desperate for money and be at a higher risk for theft. They
say that an arrest won't affect your employment chances. Yeah,
right. However, be truthful on your application because they'll
find out anyway. "I had to butcher my ex-husband 86 times and
stuff his family jewels in his mouth in self defense because he
wrote me out of his will," is a perfectly understandable
Buy a tray.
There is a restaurant
supply store on the same street as the Culinary Union that has
everything you need for cocktailing. Buy a rectangular brown
tray, not the neon or round ones. I have a round
neon-orange/pink tray that I sometimes use, but I wouldn't
recommend it for you. Don't be a rebel just yet! Also, buy a
cash caddy or tip jar. There is another thing I highly
recommend: a book called
How to Become a Casino Cocktail Waitress. (I know
this book is unavailable from Amazon.com now, but it may still
be available at the restaurant supply store. I don't
receive, and never have received, any money or kickbacks from
recommendation or sales of this book. As far as I know,
the author has no idea who I am.) I bought this
book when I got my first job here. It's written by an
ex-cocktail waitress and it's not very long, it's more like a
handbook. But it gave me so much information as to the calling
order of drinks, basic drink garnishes, the different glasses
each drink goes in, and other basics such as sidework, dealing
with other employees, and even a little history of wines and
bourbons and such. I read that book until it almost fell
apart. I was determined to not be the new girl who didn't know
what she was doing. The more prepared you are, the more your
co-workers will like working with you and will have patience
when you do ask questions.
At the interview.
Dress nice but not stiff.
I don't know if a plunging neckline or short skirt will help or
hurt, I assume it can go either way depending on where you're
applying and who's interviewing you. Here's a tip: if you're
applying at a non-union casino, they will most likely make you
do a "uniform fitting" where you try on a uniform and they can
see what you look like in it. Union casinos are not allowed to
do this, at least none of the union casinos I've applied at have
Being a flirty ditz at the
interview is not the way to go. You may get a date with the
beverage manger, but you won't get the job! Whether you have
experience or not, you should know the basic ingredients of most
drinks and their garnishes. Most casinos don't have pineapples
or umbrellas or celery, unless you're working in a specialty bar
or restaurant, so knowing that a lime goes in a Bloody Mary may
not seem like a big deal, but it's something you should know.
If you have no cocktailing
experience you could possibly "wow" your interviewer by offering
your knowledge of drinks and calling order. If you have
cocktailed or bartended before, stress your knowledge in what
you know. Tell them you are available to work any shift and
don't mind working the lounges or pool. They are not allowed to
ask you questions about your age or marital status, but you can
offer information such as, "I'm only 23 and I want to
concentrate on taking care of myself so I don't have time for a
boyfriend or even think about getting married and having kids."
Who cares if that's true or not, it sounds good. If you do get
hired, they'll never remember what you said. Availability and
reliability are top priorities, so if you have a perfect
attendance record from your previous job, make sure to say that
or show proof if possible. Be eager but not desperate.
Regardless of all this
advice, I think the determining factor of whether you will be
hired or not comes down to if the interviewer "likes" you.
I'm a guy and I want to
be a cocktail waitress!
There are only two places
I know of that have male cocktail servers. One is The Rio, but
they are known as Bevertainers, where they dance every once in
awhile, so they are not cocktail waitresses in the traditional
Vegas definition. The other place is Bally's, where both the
male servers are gay, so that may be a requirement. I'm kidding
of course (they really are gay), but I don't know if they still
work there. They had been there since the place opened, when
Bally's used to be the old MGM. Other than that, I'm afraid you
guys are shit out of luck. "But isn't that discrimination?!"
Yeah, I'm sure it is. But no employer is required to hire
anyone, so unless you can prove that someone was stupid enough
to actually say to you, "We can't hire you because you are
male," you'd have a hard time winning your case.
Can you afford to do
There's no question that
once you get established or are working consistently that you
will be comfortable financially, but at the beginning you will
most likely be working only a couple days a week in the "worst"
areas and shifts. Some casinos will "train" you for a week
or two, even if you've been in the business for years, just so
you know their way of doing things. You will probably be
assigned another cocktail waitress as your trainer, and during
this time, if she allows you to serve her customers, you will
have to give her whatever tips you receive. Even if you are
juiced in you have to start at the very bottom of the Extra
Board, which means you will have to be available to work any
shift, including a lot of graveyards, and may have to come to
work on just a few hours notice. You will be filling in for
girls who go on vacation, have asked for days off, or have
called in sick. The Extra Board gets a weekly schedule, but
being on the very bottom may mean that you have no work
scheduled and will be on call the entire week. Your time and
life are not your own, and your sleep may suffer, as well as
your personal life. If you have a jealous boyfriend, a baby to
take care of, or just like to party, you will have to make
sacrifices for this job. If you get hired during the slow
months you may not work for weeks at a time! And if for some
reason there's a lay-off, you'll be the first to go. And
finally, during the first 120 days you are on probation, which
means they can fire you for any or no reason, and even the union
can't help you there.
So before you quit your
job and pack your bags for Vegas, consider the realities of what
you're up against. Have a backup plan, like a sugar daddy. If
you still decide to take the plunge, good luck and I wish you