Ok everyone, let’s talk about long shifts. Doubles, 20-hour marathon sessions during ‘music weeks’, and the dreaded “clopen”. Why do we do this to ourselves? And why do bars and restaurants encourage it?


culture long bartender shifts


A Culture of Work


It can’t be denied, the hospitality industry is a work-to-the-bone, never say no, go ‘til you drop world. We pride ourselves on being able to make it through incredibly long shifts because the payoff is cash. In the bar environment, we’re often encouraged to work ourselves to the point of exhaustion. This mentality is simply accepted as ‘the way it is’ and rarely questioned. However, there’s often no place for us to turn when we get sick, injured, or forced to work shifts that border on inhumane. It’s important to ask the question, “Are we truly signing up for this willingly or are we being forced by a philosophy that mainly benefits our bosses?”



Why Is It Like This?


Bartending is becoming more and more respected. As time goes on, it has earned appreciation for the art that it is. However, we are still shackled by a history of mistreatment. In many states, tipped employees are exempt from minimum wage. This means that employers can get away with paying us a fraction of what others receive. A lot of times this is fine because we make bank in tips. However, it subtly classifies us as less-than and makes us a largely disposable workforce. Restaurant employees almost never have health insurance or an HR department to turn to when we need help. There’s no 401K savings plan to help us prepare for the future and any overtime pay is negligible. Because of all this, the opportunity to put a grand in the bank after one shift is too tempting to pass up, regardless of the consequences.

Don’t get me wrong, hospitality employees can make great money. But we’re missing the support that the majority of the modern workforce receives. All of these reasons combine to create a culture that encourages and rewards behavior that is sometimes dangerous.


The Consequences


While you may be totally willing and able to work for 20 hours straight, that doesn’t make it good for you. Many bartenders experience joint problems from standing and shaking cocktails, exhaustion from lack of sleep, and long term issues that we rarely address because we don’t have insurance. Not to mention, it’s hard to plan your life when you may not know when and for how long you’ll be working.


How to Mitigate the Consequences 


Since we all know you’re going to work that crazy shift anyways, here are some tips for staying happy and healthy.


Know Your Rights


Look up the local labor laws in your area. Chances are, you’re entitled to some sort of break. If you are denied what is your legal right, report it to your state’s Department of Labor.


Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthy


If you really can’t take a break, make sure you stay hydrated and eat. Bring snacks from home or scarf something down in the kitchen but don’t go without food. 


Sleep as Much as You Can


Try to get us much sleep as possible the night before and go right home after your shift. We know it’s tempting to hit the bars but the more rest you get, the less likely you are to burn out and literally collapse from exhaustion.



 Ask for What You Need


Don’t be afraid to ask for the support you need. If you need to use the restroom, don’t hold it and risk a bladder infection. If you’re hungry, ask the manager to get you some food. Again, if you’re being mistreated, REPORT IT.

We want to hear about your experience with long shifts. Why do you do them and what tips do you have to make them bearable?


Want to connect with people at your bar in a whole new way? Download the BOTY App on iTunes or Google Play for free!



Be sure to know the laws that protect service industry workers. 


Protect Service Industry Workers


Whether you work in a hotel or a bar, the common mentality seems to be, do as you're told and don’t ask questions. Maybe in your place this means tipping out everyone under the sun or working 5 back to back doubles.

However, regardless of where you work and who owns the establishment, you have rights. The Department of Labor has regulations that dictate everything from your hours to your wages. You don’t have to put up with unfair treatment just because you’re in the service industry.  


Let’s Talk About Money 




Your Wage


This is a tricky one. Wage laws are constantly in flux in America and it can be hard to keep up. Every state is different, but rules govern what your employer has to pay you. In some states tipped workers must receive the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25), while in others employers are exempt from this requirement. Now is a good time to whip out that pay stub and see what you’re getting.  Find the laws for your state HERE. If you’re not being paid the correct amount you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Go HERE for some frequently asked questions.





Ok, so you probably make most of your money from tips, not from your hourly rate.  Every establishment does things slightly differently, but it’s standard practice to tip out bartenders, busboys, etc.  However, even though the tip out procedure varies from place to place, laws govern who is eligible to receive these payouts and who is not. For instance, there is no requirement to tip out maintenance workers, chefs and managers. For more info, go HERE.


Keeping Your Tips


You, as a tipped employee, should be keeping all of your earned tips (excluding valid tip pooling of course).  The owner can never take any of this money from you.  Also, if your employer is taking weeks to dole out your money, they may be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Contact the Department of Labor if you think there’s an issue.

Also, if your combined tips and wages do not equal the federal minimum wage, your employer may be responsible for making up the difference.




Despite the variations across the country, all tipped employees should receive overtime after 40 hours of work. Additionally, this overtime should be calculated using the full minimum wage as a base, not the lower, exemption wage. Go HERE for more info.


Regulations on Hours



There are tons of regulations on hours, breaks, and pay. However, they vary wildly from state to state. Generally, for every certain amount of hours worked, you should receive a “meal” or “rest” break. There are also laws governing how much you are owed for “split-shifts:" days when you might have to work from 9am-3pm and then again from 5pm-10pm.  

While you may have heard that you are owed a certain amount of hours between shifts, there actually isn’t a legal requirement for this.  However, there are people working towards putting this in place. Hopefully that will signal the end of “clopening”.


Miscellaneous Expenses


Although yet again, these rules vary state by state, it may be illegal for a restaurant to charge you for walk-outs, cash register shortages, and other random mishaps.  Your employer may even be responsible for paying for your uniform and its upkeep.  

Look up the laws in your area if you think you’re being illegally held accountable for any costs. 


A Safe Workplace


You are entitled to a safe and healthy work environment.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces regulations on workplace safety.  They are also the ones to go to if you have any questions or would like to report unsafe conditions.  Visit their site HERE for more info or to file a complaint, which you can do anonymously.

Note: It is 100% illegal for your employer to retaliate against you if you file a complaint.  Dontact the Department of Labor or a lawyer if you are treated unfairly.



Injured on the Job


If you hurt yourself on the job, you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation from your employer. HERE is a handy little fact sheet about the requirements for filing a workers’ comp claim.

We take your safety and rights very seriously.  However, we are neither a government agency nor are we lawyers.  If you feel you are being mistreated or have questions about the laws in your area, contact the appropriate department.


Want to connect with people at your bar in a whole new way? Download the BOTY App on iTunes or Google Play for free!


Please wait...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Want to be notified when our article is published? Enter your email address and name below to be the first to know.