One Night as a Shooter
It’s 10:30 p.m. on April 29th and music is blasting through Antonia Libretti’s one bedroom apartment. We all gather around the mirror, fighting for a good space to put on make-up for the club. Libretti has us help her tie up her blue and pink corset, which doesn’t seem like the average club attire to us. We dress in black mini-dresses and heels to blend in with the average clubber in Tampa’s famous party district Ybor City. Libretti chugs a Red Bull for the extra kick of energy she says. We also each drink a Red Bull to get the sense energy and excitement she feels.
For Libretti, this is an average Friday night getting ready for work. She is preparing to start her four-hour shift of attempting to sell as many shots as she possibly can. Libretti tells us she earns her money depending on how many shots she sells, which are sold in shooter tubes at three dollars per shot.
Although Libretti is a communication major at the University of Tampa, college students aren’t the only girls who work as shooters, or “shot girls.” Before we leave the apartment, her neighbor, who is also a former shooter, tells us of why she is no longer a shooter.
“I was only making $20.00 a night, which is less than one dollar per shot,” 20-year-old Audrey Moreau says, “It just wasn’t worth staying up staying all night. Being a shot girl definitely isn’t for everyone.”
We leave Libretti’s apartment at 11:15 p.m., and arrive at Club Prana, the notorious five-story nightclub. Libretti take us to the front of the line, where we received free wristbands for being on a special list. We continue to follow Libretti to the back of the club where she and the other shooters prepare for their night. They each scan their finger with a program that clocks them in and out every evening. Next, the bar back, Adam, distributes a clipboard to the girls, which keeps track of the number of trays they sell. Each girl gives Adam a ten-dollar deposit and in return, they take a tray and head out into the club.
We watch as the shooters scatter amongst the floor, immediately walking up to groups of adults and heading for the higher floors. One shooter approaches us and talks about her upcoming night. Revealing her name as Sam, she tells us how she ends her club shift at 4 am and starts another job at Dunkin Donuts at 5 am.
“This job looks much more fun than it is,” says Sam, “I only do it for extra cash.”
After giving the quick comment, she walks over to a group of men, who she talks to for a moment and sold four shots to. It’s hard to keep the attention of a “shot girl” when you are not their number one customer.
Libretti is dancing in the VIP section, where we are allowed. By now it’s 12:30 am and she has sold a whole tray. She exits the VIP section to refill her shot tray. We follow Libretti back down to the first floor where she enters a back room and returns with a full tray.
Libretti, with a full tray of shots, takes a short break to smoke a cigarette and rest her feet. She makes a quiet comment to us about her feet hurting her.
While Libretti smokes her cigarette, a Club Prana bouncer comes over to us and points out our underage wristbands and X’s on our hands drawn with black sharpie. He is warning Libretti that we are underage and not allowed to purchase any shots from her. However, she is prepared to handle situations like this from trained experience.
“I had to attend a special vendors course, which teaches us about selling alcohol, and who not to sell it too,” she says.
When we asked for the bouncer’s name, he simply replied,”Joe,” then walked away. In Club Prana, it seems to us that making money is the competition and the clubbers not buying shots are invisible.
Back on her feet we follow Libretti to the fifth floor, which she says is her favorite floor. One group of three men say they are “making it rain” when they throw one dollar bills in the air above Libretti. We watch as three “shot girls” come over and offer them more shots, but they decline. They already have their shots from Libretti.
Ybor city isn’t the only place that leads this lifestyle for some young women. Michenzi Marzano, a sophomore at the University of Tampa, talks about her experience as a shot girl in 2009.
“I worked at a place called The Thunderdome…not kidding,” Marzano said about where she had worked.
Although Marzano describes The Thunderdome as much smaller than the five floored Club Prana there are still downsides involved in working on the floor in a club. Just as we did with Libretti, Marzano would “dress to impress,” which was one of her favorite parts of being a shooter. On the other hand, she says the downsides were dealing with excessively drunk people and the theft of money and shots.
We are on the second floor of Club Prana trying to blend ourselves in with both the “shot girls” and the clubbers. At around 1:40 a.m., we see an argument occur between Libretti and a man that seems intoxicated. We hear her repeatedly ask payment of the shot he took, but he keeps refusing. After Libretti brings over a bouncer, who calls himself Lurch, and the man is escorted out of the club.
Libretti expresses aggravation after the ordeal, saying that she will now have to pay for the shots he had taken. After standing for a moment longer, she starts walking through the crowds of partiers, offering shots for only $3 per shot.
Club Prana bartenders call out “Last call” to all patrons at the bar at 2:30 am. We are on the Sky Bar, which is the top floor. It is an outdoor section with a bar and a dance floor. Although it is last call, the bouncers allow us to stay with Libretti until 3 am, when the club officially closes.
We watch the bouncers pick up left behind trash mostly consisting of empty cups. We both take off our heels from the pain, while Libretti is still comfortably standing by us.
“After working here for this long my feet are used to it, wearing heels is just part of my job,” says Libretti.
The end of Libretti’s Friday night of work doesn’t come until 4 am, she says. In order to be paid at the end of the evening the shooters wait in line at the bar to receive their pay.
Once she has left the club, Libretti says she sees many intoxicated people walking on the streets of Ybor. At any time a bouncer will assist a shooter or bartender to the parking garage to ensure their safety, she says.
Usually she doesn’t feel there is a risk getting back to her car, but sometimes the extra safety is comforting, she says. There are many homeless people sitting on the streets making items out of palm to attract money from the people in Ybor.
Libretti meets us back at her apartment at 4:30 am, where we are trying to stay awake. She takes off her uniform and makeup from the long evening of work. It is finally time to go to sleep for Libretti. She says that some nights she does not make it home until past 5 am.
By Brittany Cannon and Shannon Siegel