Lives of Bottle Girls in New York City

By Albert Vargas

Being a bottle girl has become a popular job for young women in New York City. Many young girls between the ages of 21-35 are working as bottle girls in the Big Apple, mostly Latinas. Club owners require them to dress provocatively to draw the attention of club clients.

Being a bottle girl — serving bottles of alcohol to tables — is one of the best ways for young women to make money working in night clubs. Besides the provocative dress, they are told to be happy and authentic — to get big tips.

“I hired these girls because I have proven that this is a good way to get clients,” said Joel Jimenez, the general manager from 27 Sports Bar at Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. Jimenez says the outfits don’t reflect their character. “I always make sure that our clients respect them,” he said.

Bottle girls are controversial in the Latino community. Many people have portrayed this job as a platform for prostitution. Some say the flirtatious way the young women act makes them look bad. “Those girls use that job to get extra money in exchange for sex,” said Fior Encarnacion, a Dominican citizen in the Bronx. “I do not like my husband to visit clubs because those girls flirt with men to conquer them, and they do not respect if they are married or not. It should be illegal.”

Bottle girl Myelin at 27 Sports Bar says she has gotten many offers from clients. Myelin, 26, is a single mother. “Many clients believe that just because they spend a certain amount of money, they have the right to touch or ask me for sex,” she says. The job isn’t easy because women have to deal with harassment and pressure. “I first respect myself and my son. I will never sell my body,” says Myelin. “Being a bottle girl does not mean I am a prostitute. This is a regular job like others.”

“People in the Dominican Republic have a different mentality from New Yorkers,” says Guzman. “I received a call from my aunt asking me if I dance in a strip club because of my dress. That hurt me because I was raised with good education and well-valued by my parents. A bottle girl gets better money than a businessman in the Dominican Republic.”

She also says that the job with its negative stereotypes does not define her.

Many bottle girls pick the job to pay for their tuition and pursue a career in college. “I chose this job because it is good money and it is flexible,” said Eliza Leon, 25, a bottle girl at 27 Sports Bar. “I am an assistant medical student at ASAP College in Manhattan and this job helps me to pay for my tuition. I feel comfortable being a bottle girl because I get good tips. I make $1000-$2000 weekly and other regular jobs do not pay that amount of money.”

Bottle girls start to work at 10 pm or 11 pm and work until 4 am, according to Jimenez, manager at the sports bar.

Many of these girls are overworked. Some locations are restaurants during the day and after 10 pm, they stop selling food and become night clubs. These restaurants are typical in Hispanic neighborhoods. For example, La Casa del Mofongo, located at Saint Nicolas and Washington Heights and Salsa Con Fuego, located on Fordham in the Bronx, are popular lounge restaurants that hire waitresses and bottle girls. Some of those women work as a waitress during the day and at night they change their clothes and become a bottle girl, working 15 hours every weekend.

“I work 40-45 hours in three days from Friday to Sunday,” said Carina Garcia, a Dominican waitress in a popular lounge restaurant in Washington Heights. “I start working at 3 pm on Friday as a food waitress, with regular clothes, all black, but at 10 pm I stop working as a waitress. I take one hour to change my clothes and get my makeup and at 11 pm, I start working as a bottle girl until 5 am,” said Garcia wearily. “I work hard because I am a single mother, and I want to give the best to my son. Although I do not see him on weekends, my mom takes care of him. I know he is in good hands every weekend.”

Clary Guzman is better artistically known as Clary Doll. “People call me doll because of my body,” she says. Guzman got breast and buttock implants. “I made my body two years ago. I made that decision because I wanted to improve my self-esteem, and as a bottle girl, that gives me an advantage.”

Her family in the Dominican Republic are skeptical, says Guzman. “I received a call from my aunt asking me if I dance in a strip club because of my dress. That hurt me because I was raised with good education and well-valued by my parents. A bottle girl gets better money than a businessman in the Dominican Republic.”

Most of the bottle girls want to look very good because the better they look, the more tips they receive. Bottle girls dress like this because it’s the club policy, said Gloria Garcia, who works at 27 Sports Bar and who belongs to the LGBTQ community. “I am an example that the stereotype about bottle girls is not true because I am not interested in men,” she says. “I am married to another girl. I work here because of the flexibility, and I have two more jobs.”

Making the rent is one of the main challenges that New Yorkers face, and this has led people to work two and three jobs to support themselves. Although people have negative stereotypes about the bottle girls, the majority have families and are married. They consider serving bottles to be a regular job, albeit a job where they sometimes dance or smoke hookah. Occasionally customers offer them a drink as well, but many refuse the glass.

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