Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
When it comes to drinking alcohol in Mississippi, it may be a little easier in Oxford. According to a survey published by CareerBuilder.com, there are about 160 bartenders in town.
“The hours are very flexible, and you can make a lot of money in a short period of time, depending on the crowd,” said Andy Reichel, a bartender for The Levee in Oxford.
The survey reports there are nearly 580,000 bartenders in the U.S, but in the state of Mississippi, the overall number of bartenders is 0.8 per 1,000 people, lower than most other states. If you narrow it down to Lafayette Country, the number increases to 1.6 bartenders per 1,000 people.
David Tanner, The Levee Bar and Grill manager says he expects the job of bartender to keep growing in Oxford.
“I’d say this study is somewhat accurate just because this is a small college town,” said Tanner. “I definitely think that the numbers will increase with oxford expanding and with new businesses and bars coming in.”
Comparing the numbers to another college town like Starkville Mississippi, the number of bartenders per 1,000 people is 1.0, just a little less than Oxford, according to the CareerBuilder analysis.
One reason may be that Oxford is something of a tourist destination for many people. Bartenders like Jamison Barefield at the Corner bar in Oxford say catering to visitors can be tough on a personal life.
“The late hours and missing some weekends with your friends and other fun events really stinks. I missed a big spring party last year because it was double decker weekend.”
Recently, there have been changes to the drinking laws in Oxford. In 2013, they made changes where you are now legally able to purchase beer and light wine on Sundays from 11am to 9pm. Also you are now aloud to buy cold beer at gas stations, where in the past you could only buy it warm.
Looking at additional big college towns like Tuscaloosa Alabama, 1.1 per 1000 people in the county are bartenders, which is still lower than Oxford. Tuscaloosa’s population of about 95,000 compared to Oxford at 20,865 people.
The small town environment may put more pressure on bartenders, too. Reichel says he’s responsible for serving drinks as fast as possible, making sure tabs are paid for and for keeping customers in line.
“It comes down to checking wristbands when serving drinks, promoting specials to your friends, and keeping an eye on who’s doing what.”