“I work as a bottle girl in a club. Here’s what it’s like behind the scenes”

“I work as a bottle girl in a club. Here’s what it’s like behind the scenes”

Victoria Cunningham, 27, once made $2,500 in tips in a single night. She also spends $15,000 a year on treatments like filler and Botox to stay club-ready

Victoria blowing a kiss at the camera while working at the club

In June of 2016, I moved to the city to study biology at Toronto Metropolitan University. My first apartment was a two-bedroom condo near the TMU campus that I shared with my brother. In total, our rent was around $2,300 a month. Thankfully, my parents provided us some financial support, but they expected my brother and I to contribute as well.

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I needed to find a way to make extra money. I’d worked as a waitress back home in London, Ontario, so that seemed like a no-brainer. But, after serving for a few years in Toronto, I noticed another opportunity. My friends and I frequented various clubs and bars, and I noticed the bottle girls—women who served the VIP tables, where guests bought liquor by the bottle. I loved serving, and I loved nightlife, so it seemed like the perfect combination.

In 2019, I connected with a former manager of mine who had started working at a club on King Street. When he offered me a job doing bottle service, it seemed too good to pass up. From what I understood, King Street was like the Wall Street of clubbing—it’s where all the celebrities and big spenders went for a night out, so I assumed the tips would be much higher than at my serving job. Plus, it sounded like I was going to get paid to party.

When I walked into my first shift, I was immediately intimidated. All the women working had perfect hair and makeup, and they seemed very experienced. The club had me shadow another bottle girl for my first few shifts. Before we headed onto the floor, she explained the job to me. First, I’d have to book my own patrons, which meant finding people who wanted a VIP experience on my own time. If I didn’t book clients, I wouldn’t get shifts. Second, I’d have to serve them, and the more I got them to buy, the more likely I was to take home serious tips.

There were some other logistics too. She showed me how to make drinks, clean off the tables, take orders and cash people out. At the end of the shift, we tallied up her sales and tips and sent that information off to the office for processing. After a few more shadowing sessions, my manager told me I was ready to try it out on my own.

The first month of work was a complete reality check for me. My shifts started around 9 p.m. and went late—I would get home around 5 or 6 in the morning. On top of that, I had to balance my classes and coursework. I started getting sick constantly because my schedule was so imbalanced. I was exhausted.

Fortunately, I never missed a class or assignment because of work, but it took a lot of discipline. I used the weekends to catch up on sleep, so I had to be very productive in the afternoons and on weekdays. And I had to miss out on socializing with my friends—they often got together when I was working. My job was helping me pay for my education, though, so I pushed through.

I started to get into the swing of things. I built up my rapport with regular customers at the club and starting seeking out new clients at other high-end restaurants and clubs. I discovered that the best strategy is not to be pushy. When I met people who seemed interested, I just invited them to come by and check things out. Usually, they ended up enjoying it and inquired about booking their own table.

Once I’d identified a client who wanted bottle service, I gave the club’s VIP host their name, the date they wanted to visit and the number of guests they were bringing. Then the host determined the party’s minimum spend based on the number of people, the location of their table and the date they were visiting. On a weekend, the lowest minimum spend was around $500 per table, which typically gets you one bottle.

In 2023, I moved to the club I work at now, which is called Deer Lady. As is the case for most bottle girls, tips make up the majority of my income. Hourly, bottle girls make minimum wage, which is $16.55. On average, in the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve made between $300 and $500 in tips per night, but I’ve also brought home well over $1,000. On my highest-paying night to date, I made $2,500 in tips—but that was pure luck. I booked a very wealthy client who also happened to be a very generous tipper.

A look at the club where Victoria works

Generally, the more money people spend, the more I make in tips. But that doesn’t always mean encouraging people to buy more—sometimes it means suggesting a more expensive bottle instead. Sometimes, a table comes in with a budget that is fairly firm. In those cases, I might just suggest they add a $100 bottle of champagne. It’s really a sales job, just like real estate or marketing.

Unfortunately, there’s also an unspoken rule that the way you look will affect the amount of money you make. I’ve started investing more in things like hair care, makeup, tanning, clothes, working out, and getting Botox and fillers. Combined, it all costs me between $12,000 and $15,000 a year. I do cut some corners to save money. For instance, I’ve started doing my nails at home.

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The financial benefits of having this job have been huge. It’s financed my undergraduate degree as well as a master’s of applied science, which I’m in the middle of right now. I’ve also had enough money to buy a membership at a boutique gym, Sweat and Tonic, and higher-quality groceries that help me maintain my vegan diet. And I’ve improved my social skills by talking with the many successful people who frequent the club. Without a doubt, being a bottle girl has been worth it.

Currently, in addition to doing my master’s, I have three other jobs: I’m a teaching assistant and an outreach coordinator at TMU, and I do social media influencing. It’s a lot, so I only work at the club a couple of times a month now. But I’m a big believer in “work hard, play hard,” and I still love to go out clubbing myself. Which is why, despite the demands of being a bottle girl, I’ve been able to make the best of it for all these years.