Bad economy boosts enrollment at Bartending Academy - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Bad economy boosts enrollment at Bartending Academy

Regan Onikama Regan Onikama
Kaelin Locker Kaelin Locker

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's meant to mimic happy hour at the local lounge without the hard liquor. Students at the Bartending Academy use water and food coloring to master mixes for 114 drinks.

"Next drink will be a Manhattan up," teacher Pat Michelman barks out.

Pupils scoop ice and work on a mock version of the popular bar drink. Four people were in the daytime class. The night class is twice as large and booked through the rest of the year.

"We have a heavy volume of calls right now. I have teachers, I have state workers calling, saying, 'We've been furloughed. We need some kind of part-time income,'" owner Regan Onikama said.

Some students want a second job. Others want to change careers. Kaellin Locker is on unemployment. He hopes bartending will pay the bills.

"Hawaii has a lot of tourist business. So a lot of bars. A lot of lounges. Hotels," he said.

"If there's no bartender there then how you gonna have a good time?" student Shelyse Bega said.

Some public school teachers recently went through the course to tend bar on furlough Fridays.

"They figured bartending, they can do that at night, it's not going to really interfere with their teaching schedule," Onikama said.

It costs $499 for the two-week class.

"We can teach them how to make every drink that we know but we can't teach them personality. We can't teach them how to interact with their customers," Onikama said.

The Academy can't guarantee a job but graduates get help with interviews That's a step toward pouring for pay.

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