There are 24 bars located in downtown State College, each equipped with a team manning the madness behind the bar, but have you ever really taken the time to get to know the bartenders? That’s where we come in with our newest short series, Better Know a Bartender, where we sit down and get to know the brave men and women who serve the insatiable thirst of Penn State students.
Contrary what I said in last week’s post, I decided to feature a bartender from the Phyrst rather than Pickles. After an impromptu visit to celebrate a friend’s 21st birthday that resulted in an engaging conversation with a friendly staff member, I could not turn down the opportunity. Meet Laine Kaminski, a senior majoring in Advertising.
Considering all four of her older siblings came here before her, there was not a hint of uncertainty that Kaminski would go anywhere else but Penn State. A Pennsylvania native reigning from Moon, most of her friends went to Pitt, but I think she made the better decision.
She began working at the Phyrst to help pay for school after a brief stint as a burrito-rolling master at Chipotle. As a former fitness instructor and member of the club soccer team, she had no problem filling out the infamous Phyrst uniform (or lack there of). We caught up with her before a shift of work to learn more about the curly-headed bartender.
Age and Major: 22, Advertising
Experience: She’s worked at the Phyrst since September of her sophomore year, so she is a veteran shot pourer of two and a half years. A co-worker of hers at Chipotle also had a job at the Phyrst and Laine said she ” was interested in becoming a bartender because I knew they made a lot of moolah.” She went in and got hired that night, so she traded in her Chipotle visor for a slightly more provocative uniform and never looked back.
Signature Drink: When it comes to drink making, Laine is pretty much up for anything, as long as you don’t order a Long Island Iced Tea. If people place an order for one, she’ll secretly tell them to go screw themselves because it has five different kinds of liquor in it and as she puts it, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” She doesn’t really have a signature drink, but if people want a shot, she usually whips up a pineapple upside down cake, or brings out the crowd favorite — tequila! According to her, patrons should stay away from Dirty Girl Scouts if they’re really looking to have a good time.
“One thing I can tell you is that contrary to popular belief, Dirty Girl Scout shots will not get you drunk. It’s made of Bailey’s and 2 other liqueurs – so you are drinking a creamy shot that’s not strong at all. That defeats the whole purpose of shots,” said Laine.
Favorite Part about the Phyrst: The Physt Phamily. From the outside, she said “it might look like we are just a bunch of half-naked bartenders slinging drinks at people, but in reality a lot of us are college students trying to pay our way through school.” Half-naked girls + alcohol = good tips. It’s basic math.
Not to mention, it’s a quick trip up the stairs to Ernie’s. Laine said, “The biggest thing that sets the Phyrst apart from other bars is the fries, cheesesteaks, and ranch at Ernie’s- all of which I’m a sucker for. I don’t do it often, but I can house a cheesesteak and fries like there is no tomorrow. If you’re going to go home with a guy, go home with Ernie because he will satisfy your every need.”
Shirt Protocol: The only people who don’t have to wear cut shirts at the Phyrst are the guys. One of the bartenders, Erin, is apparently the tits at cutting shirts, no pun intended. She has cut every single Phyrst shirt that Kaminski owns, and she’s confident a lot of other girls that work there can say the same. According to Kaminski, she is a ninja with scissors. She laughs and says, “It’s kind of funny because if I put all of my Phyrst shirts together, I think I’d be able to make up a whole t-shirt again!”
Craziest/Funniest Story: If you’ve ever been to the Phyrst, you know it can get pretty wild. The craziest thing she’s witnessed was on a football weekend. She couldn’t recall exactly how it all began, but a student and older alumni were arguing about something.
Laine said, “Next thing you know, the kid punched the old guy in the face. There was blood gushing down the guy’s face and he was crying – I felt so bad for him!” She thinks the funniest thing to watch is intoxicated people going out the door at the top of the steps. “It says “PUSH” in big bold letters right in front of your face, but the majority of people still pull on the door for a long time before they realize they have to push,” said Laine. I personally have fallen victim to the push/ pull trap at the Phyrst — it’s an easy mix-up.
Typical Night: She usually works about four nights a week- sometimes more, sometimes less. The shifts typically begin around 9 p.m. on weeknights or 6:30 p.m. on weekends and don’t end until about 3:30 or 4 a.m., making it the following morning pretty difficult. A typical night starts out by making sure everything is ready (fruit is cut, cups are stocked, etc), and then getsright into serving people. She claims there are usually at least 20 birthdays on any given night. Friday Happy Hours are the busiest — before the hour strikes, the bar fills up and everyone is waiting for a bartender to ring the bell to signal when they can order drinks.
“It reminds me of a race because everyone is waiting to order and we are all waiting to take orders and make drinks, but no one wants to make a move until the bell rings. After that, the next two hours are a blur of making drinks and swiping card,” said Laine.
Other than that, nights are usually the same — serve people throughout the night and occasionally cut people off or get a bouncer to kick them out. After closing at 2 a.m., it usually takes them an hour and a half to clean. I’ve stayed at the Phyrst until the very end when the lights go on, and it is not a pretty sight. The grand finale of the night is dumping out the tip jar and start counting Benjamins — or in their case, the Washingtons.
After graduation, she would like to take some time to travel abroad. Kaminski loves sports and food and hopes to own her own business or become the next Erin Andrews, so make sure to get her autograph while you can.
Make sure to check back next week when we interview another friendly neighborhood bartender — the location is yet to be determined.
Previous editions: Indigo