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State Press Places: The Phoenix Bartending Academy

A conversation with director Steven Shliveck and students of the school


Illustration published on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

In this episode of State Press Places, podcaster Balin Overstolz-McNair meets Steven Shliveck, who has been the director of The Phoenix Bartending Academy for almost 19 years. The fast-paced bar scene comes to life as Shliveck hurries around the bar, introducing the audience to students and showing off different aspects of the mock bar. The Phoenix Bartending Academy has classes ranging from the basics to bar management and offers a flexible schedule that appeals to people from all walks of life. 

Balin Overstolz-McNair: From underground dueling pianists to a chill spot to play board games, Mill Avenue's bar scene is vibrant. With over 20 bars on the main drag alone, there is demand for bartenders who can serve up a variety of drinks. Luckily for any ASU student interested in the fast-paced bar scene, there is a unique opportunity to enter that industry. Just a short walk from the Tempe campus is the The Phoenix Bartending Academy. The Phoenix Bartending Academy serves Tempe with a short six-day course that teaches students everything from common drinks to wine pairings. They also certify students with a Title IV server permit, or bartender license, which you need to serve alcohol. 

I met with Steve Shliveck, who is the director of The Phoenix Bartending Academy. But before we began talking business, he hurried me out to the lobby so I could meet some of the students. Let's check it out. 

Steve Shliveck: Everyone say hi to Balin please! 

Group of students: Hi! 

Balin Overstolz-McNair: Hi guys, how's it going? 

Steve Shliveck: Friendly group, friendly group. We usually have between 7 to 8 students in a class. It keeps it very intimate. Almost all the people here have never done this before in their lives. I know they haven't done it, because I enrolled them. It ranges from 18 to 70 here. 

Steve Shliveck: I get PC techs, network engineers, real estate people, artists, musicians, medical folks. A lot of students from different schools and colleges who just want to supplement their income. 

My name is Steve Shliveck, I'm the owner and director of the Bartending Academy. I've been running the school for about 18 years. Come November will be my 19th anniversary. 

Balin Overstolz-McNair: How do you teach students about the bartending industry? 

Steve Shliveck: All our graduates get their state certification, that's the Title IV certification for free every three years. Plus, as well we help people find jobs, that's why the school is so popular. And we do it quickly. Pouring skills, method how to pour accurately. That's why people hire our students. They're considered profitless issues. 

They may be learning how to free pour, to be direct and accurate each and every time. We learn the history of drinks, percentages of alcohol. We do a lot of customer service role playing. However, we don't just teach people how to make drinks. We teach people how to make money making drinks. How to read the customer, how to suggest drinks, how to create drinks, how to get them to ask for you. 

And of course, very importantly the legal state certification. How to spot fake ID's, cut people off from drinking so you are safe responsible bartenders. This is not a "Mickey Mouse" course. I don't disrespect other schools, but if you want to learn how to make a few drinks and get wasted go somewhere else. Want to make some money? Come here. 

The world needs better bartenders, and that's our mission. There's a lot of competition, a lot of people who get trained poorly, and they hand that down to the next people replacing them or sharing with them. And that's why a lot of liquor law violations are out there. Overserving, you cannot over serve in Arizona — it's a fine. Years ago, there was that premise, the owners would say "Get the customer drunk and get a better tip." Now you go to jail or it might even be a five hundred to a thousand dollar fine or even more. 

Balin Overstolz-McNair: If a student is already spending their time on a college degree, why should they be interested in your school?

Steve Shliveck: No matter what your goals are in life, always have extra skills. It doesn't have to be a career, but always have extra skills in your back pocket. 

As a student, this is perfect. Where else can you work part time and make a great salary? This gives you more time to study and play, because it's very flexible. And you even work a couple nights a week, it's like a car payment. I have some people here with eighth grade educations and some people (with) master's degrees and Ph.D.'s. This whole program is six days. Not to do bragging props, but I got some people who after a few weeks of training are making more money than some people who have a college degree. 

You want to do it right, and get the right training to make the best money, come here. Or without me trying to sound like I'm pushing anybody, come by, take a free class any time you want just to check it out. Remember, since you could take it over as many times as you want ... technically you're done in six days. You go every day for four hours, you're done in six days. Morning, afternoon, evening. You can mix and match - make your own schedule. But let's say you finish and are not sure about some things. You can take it over and over to get it right. That's why nobody fails this. We're very flexible, very accommodating. 

Balin Overstolz-McNair: Whether you're looking for an opportunity to learn more skills, make more money or even find a new hobby, then maybe you should check out The Phoenix Bartending School at 1250 E. Apache Blvd. in Tempe.  

And for The State Press, I am Balin Overstolz-McNair. 

Previous episodes: 

After Hours: A conversation with an ASU-bound, Phoenix-based musician and American Idol contestant

State Press Play: How will Phoenix's rising rent impact students? 

Reach the reporter at or follow  @boversto_asu on Twitter.

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