Bartending & Casino College

The iconic city of Denver in Colorado has long been a favourite destination for tourists, masses of whom are drawn to the area each and every year – 2014 alone saw more than fifteen million visitors – because of its wealth of attractions. Many of those vacationers get thirsty, too – which means the bars, taverns and nightclubs of the Mile-High City are constantly on the lookout for professional staff to serve an ever-growing number of patrons.

This is where the Bartending and Casino College comes in: Denver’s first and most renowned school for fledgling bar keeps, the College focuses its efforts on producing highly-trained ‘mixologists’ via an intensive, comprehensive program of classes. Established in 1985 and still owned by Ron Skaggs to this day – aided and abetted for the last ten years by hospitality industry veteran Micky Lee – the Bartending and Casino College (BCC) recently celebrated three decades in what is now an extremely competitive business – a testament to the owners, staff and quality of the curriculum.

Tucked in the Empire Park business block right on bustling South Colorado Boulevard – between Virginia Village and Cory-Merrill – the BCC specializes in hands-on training and aftercare for its graduates, incorporating job placement and TIPS Certification. Its staff and instructors are state school board certified (the school itself is also approved by Colorado Board of Higher Education) and students advance through fourteen-module lesson plans, learning how to prep and serve more than two hundred classic and contemporary drinks within the confines of BCC’s mock nightclub setting at Empire Park; Skaggs and Micky Lee have put considerable effort into replicating the vibe of a busy, working club with the use of real glassware, plenty of conversation and the faint hum of neon signs as your backdrop while you train.

The Bartending and Casino College offers up three different courses to try your hand at, with the primary package being its ‘Bartending 101 Course’. $189 gets you forty hours of instruction from Micky and his team in what they describe as ‘one of the premier classes for bartenders’, in a series of educational modules designed to turn you from bar hero to zero in as little as one week. Students will learn all about wines and champagnes, Martinis and Manhattans, cream and dessert drinks and classic/contemporary shots, equipping them with the knowledge to prepare and provide any drink upon request. Added to this are lessons on legal matters (such as what is expected of you while serving alcohol), customer service skills to boost trade and tips, general knowledge of beers and wines, plus handy tips for interviews when you go looking for that great job. Classes run every Monday as one or two week courses (both of which have morning and afternoon session choices), or on two consecutive weekends (where training runs all day on both the Saturday and Sunday).

Flair Classes are an enjoyable way to learn how to toss and flip bottles and inject a little excitement – not to mention the chance to earn lots of tips – into your bartending routine. The BCC offers training to help you pick up these increasingly popular skills for $149, which includes a Flair bottle to practise with and a home DVD which you can use as a study aid. Finally, TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) Training, which already comes as part of the main ‘101’ course, is offered as an individual workshop ($35) where students learn all about responsible service, sale, and consumption of alcohol. Many employers now expect their bar staff have this certification, and it is becoming mandatory in certain states – without it you cannot work, no matter what your bartending school qualification.

Students and alumni of the school receive ongoing support in the form of job placement assistance, and the college proudly boasts of having ensured employment for thousands of its graduates in some of the best bars, clubs and restaurants across the United States. Meanwhile as further support it offers numerous add-ons and equipment, such as Poker Classes ($499), Blackjack training ($299), Mixing Kits ($40 each) and sets of recipe flash cards ($10) to use as aide memoires while churning out those tasty drinks.

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