Bartender Working Hours: The Graveyard Shift

bartender working hours
Joe | Last Updated: November 24, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

No matter if you’re an experienced bartender that’s been in the industry for decades or a complete beginner that’s looking to get started in the industry, one aspect that doesn’t change over time is the working hours.

The hospitality industry as a whole is notorious for its long and sometimes exhausting working hours, and bartending is no exception.

Bartenders often work late into the night and don’t return home until the early hours of the morning, which can make finding a comfortable work-life balance difficult.

This type of unpredictable schedule isn’t for everyone and it can take some time to adjust to if you’re not used to the shift patterns.

In this post, we’re going to take an in-depth look at bartender working hours to help newcomers understand what they’re getting into and help OG bartenders manage their schedules better.

Let’s get into it…

What Time Do Most Bartenders Work?

Bartenders often work during evening and nighttime hours as this is when most bars and restaurants are typically the busiest, but there are day shifts too depending on the establishment.

The exact working hours will vary depending on the bar, but most bartenders can expect to work late into the night and into the early hours of the morning.

Generally, a bartender’s shift will start at around 5pm to 6pm and they will work until closing time, which could be as late as 2 or 3am depending on the bar.

This is pretty common in most bartending roles around the world as this is the shift where most bars experience the their busy period, therefore, they need plenty of staff on-hand.

bartender working hours
Photo by Aleksandr Popov

Some establishments that are open during the day may run a dayshift, which typically starts at around 10 or 11am and finishes in the late afternoon at around 6 or 7pm.

But If we’re talking about nightclubs, bartenders may start at 10pm or 11pm and go all the way through until the early hours of the morning, not finishing until 6 or 7am.

This is known as the “graveyard shift”, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see why.

As you can see, the working hours of bartenders vary depending on the establishment, but most bartenders can expect to start in the late afternoon and finish in the early hours of the morning.

Do Bartenders Work Weekends?

Yes, almost all bartenders will be required to work at least one out of two days on the weekend as this is when bars are the busiest.

Friday and Saturday nights are peak hours for bartenders, as well as other days that are popular for going out drinking such as Thursday and Sundays.

Nobody can turn down a thirsty Thursday or Sunday Funday.

Most bars and nightclubs will have events running over the weekend such as DJs, live performances, or even comedy nights.

These events can draw lots of customers to the establishment which is why there needs to be bartenders on shift ready to service them.

If you’re someone that’s considering getting into the bartending industry, it’s important to know what you’re getting into, and weekend work is pretty much standard across the whole industry.

The specific days and shifts will depend on the management team and their staffing rota, but it’s very common for bartenders to work on the weekend.

If you don’t, you’re INCREDIBLY lucky and should thank your lucky stars!

How Long Are Most Bartending Shifts?

The length of a bartending shift can vary depending on the bar, but most full-time bartender shifts range from between 8 and 10 hours, but some may be longer.

Bank holidays, public holidays, and events may require bartenders to work extra hours as required.

Bartenders that work in nightclubs often work 10 – 12 hours shifts that usually start late in the evening and end in the early morning hours.

On the other hand, bartenders that work in restaurants on day shifts or work on a part-time basis may only work 4 – 6 hour shifts.

It really depends and varies from person to person and bar to bar.

Most full-time bartender shifts are not for the faint-hearted, it’s a physically demanding job that involved standing for long periods and continuously serving customers.

bartender working hours
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Some bartenders even work split shifts, which involves working a morning shift for a few hours and then returning for an evening shift later in the same day.

This works well for some bartenders and allows them to schedule their day around other commitments such as childcare or other jobs.

It also gives them time for a well-needed afternoon nap before they’re back behind the bar.

>>Read more: Is bartending a depressing job?

Do Bartenders Work During The Day?

Yes, some bartenders do work during the day (the lucky ones). However, daytime is usually the quiet period for most bars, therefore, most bartenders will work in the evenings when the bar gets busier.

Some bars and restaurants open early to serve breakfast and lunch, these will require bartenders to make drinks for customers during these hours.

Whilst daytime bartenders may not be serving alcoholic beverages, it’s common for them to serve tea and coffee as well as prepare the bar for the evening shift.

Working the day shift as a bartender can be great as it’s often much quieter and lighter work, however, it’s a luxury that very few bartenders experience as it usually only takes 1 or 2 bartenders to run the shift.

The crowd is different too as most people aren’t throwing up or sinking pints at 11am and instead, opt for a latte and croissant.

Much more peaceful.

Where You Work Matters

If you haven’t figured it out already, the establishment bartenders work in plays a HUGE role in the hours they work.

Most bar managers will have the majority of their bartenders working the evening shift as this is when bars generally get the most customers.

People finish work at 5pm and go for a couple of beers with their friends before going home, so the hours between 5pm and 11pm can be busy.

There’s nothing like a post-work beverage to take the edge off.

Nightclubs and casinos often have “graveyard shifts” that start late in the evening and end in the early hours of the morning, with some even being open 24 hours and operating constantly.

bartender working hours
Photo by Krys Amon

In this case, the bartender’s working hours could vary significantly as they will likely have a day, evening, and night shifts that covers all periods.

The Toll On Your Health

Irregular shift patterns can have a significant impact on a bartender’s mental and physical health, particularly if they work long hours over an extended period of time.

As mentioned earlier, the work of a bartender is physically and mentally demanding, and combined with irregular shift patterns, this can cause bartenders stress if not managed properly.

Working long and irregular hours can disrupt a person’s circadian rhythm which is their natural internal body clock that regulates sleep and wakefulness.

This makes it hard to establish any sort of sleep pattern and can lead to all sorts of adverse health effects.

Bartenders who work in nightclubs often have a hard time adjusting to their shift patterns, which can lead to fatigue, burnout, and insomnia.

I worked as a bartender in a busy nightclub in Australia for 8 months and it was one of the most challenging periods of my life.

The nightclub is popular in Melbourne and operates 24/7, there was little time for a break and I would often work 10 – 12-hour shifts which were completely exhausting.

The strain working like this puts on your mental and physical health is intense, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Days off are spent asleep as you don’t want to ruin your sleep pattern, and if you do, you’ll spend the next shift at work even more tired and falling behind.

It’s a never-ending cycle that is hard to keep up with, and I truly respect and take my hat off to the nightclub bartenders out there.

Generally speaking, bartender working hours are not that bad so long as you don’t work in a nightclub, but be mindful of the fact that the unsociable hours can have an impact on your family and social life.

bartender working hours
Photo by Gustavo Cultivo

It can be hard to stay in any kind of gym routine when working and continue with a healthy diet, so it requires a lot of discipline at first until you establish a routine.

The good news is that you’ll often have most of your days completely free and won’t start work until the evening, giving you plenty of time to fit your workout in and other commitments you may have.

Wrapping Up

The truth is, the working hours in bartending are one of the most challenging aspects of the role, which is why many bartenders quit after only a few months.

The working hours of bartenders can vary depending on where they work, but most will be expected to work an evening shift which typically runs from the hours of 5pm to 1am.

Almost all bartenders will be expected to work at least one of the days on the weekend to cover the busy period of Friday and Saturday nights.

While working as a bartender can be both challenging and rewarding, the long and irregular shift patterns can take a toll on the person’s mental and physical health.

A bartender’s shift patterns play a big part in the effects it will have on their health, happiness, and work-life balance.

But with the right mindset and strategies, bartenders can effectively manage their working hours to make them fit their lifestyle.

Hopefully, this post has proved useful and you now have a better understanding of bartender working hours and what you may or may not be getting yourself in for.

Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you in the next one!

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