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Underage students bartend to make ends meet

She spends her nights like any other bartender in Nashville, catering to patrons wanting to wind down from a long day. Unlike many other bartenders, however, Ashlee Brownfield is mixing concoctions she cannot drink legally.

Brownfield, who is 19 years old, is part of a growing trend of underage student bartenders.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts can employ Brownfield as a regular bartender, despite her age, through the Tennessee Alcohol Responsibility Act of 1995.

Brownfield, like several other underage college students, is able to tend bar because the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverages Commission (TABC) only requires new servers to be 18 years old or older and attend a certified alcohol awareness training class.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts required Brownfield to obtain a license at the beginning of her employment.

“I am glad I did, because now, I can use it for other opportunities,” she said.

The process is simple, according to Brownfield, and includes one five-hour class.

Applicants that pass the class with a test score of 70 percent or higher can receive a five-year permit, depending on their employers requirements. To be certified for the Top Shelf Responsible Beverage Service exam, applicants must have at least an 80 percent score.

The class costs $80, but often employers cover the fees for new hires.

Brownfield has enjoyed her experience as a bartender so far.

“I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people and work in a great atmosphere,” she said.

The biggest problem Brownfield faces as a 19-year-old bartender involves her previous lack of familiarization with alcohol.

“It’s hard to answer customers’ questions about different drinks and which ones may be good or bad considering I’m not old enough to drink,” she said.

Brownfield works four to five days a week, typically totaling about 30 hours.

Her favorite part about being a bartender is interacting with people, she said.

“And the tips aren’t bad either,” she said.

-Lindsey Driver

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