David Beegun has spent 14 years behind bars, both in his native Chicago and, since 2011, in Brooklyn’s Cain’s Tavern.
Last year, he was nominated for Best Bartender in The Village Voice Readers’ Choice Contest, a New York City-wide poll. It’s easy to see why: he is cheerful and attentive, floating between patrons to deliver drinks, chitchat and offer the occasional bit of life advice.
But now Beegun is spending less time behind the counter. Although he still works 20 to 30 hours each week at Cain’s, he’s also putting in 30 to 40 hours a week as a licensed real estate salesman with Citi Habitats, a residential brokerage firm in New York City.
He’s one of many people to make the switch from the service industry to real estate. “A lot of people who are in the service industry go into real estate, and I can see the similarities,” Beegun says. “You’ve got to be good with people.” Others have also noted that both jobs require similar skills.
From a hobby to a job
In New York, real estate isn’t just a business; it’s practically a civic obsession. “People always ask each other where they live, how much they pay, if they like it,” Beegun says. “Before I was a professional, I was interested in those exact questions. How much are properties? Where are new developments coming up? What’s the difference between one neighborhood and another, price-wise?”
In 2014, Beegun’s amateur curiosity germinated into professional interest when one of his regulars at Cain’s suggested he look into becoming a real estate agent. It was a good time for a change: the band in which Beegun played drums had just decided to call it quits, leaving him with time to explore other options. By May he had completed the required 75-hour educational course and passed the state-administered examination to become one of New York’s 12,170 licensed real estate sellers. A few days later, he joined Citi Habitats, which provided its own additional training program and broker sponsorship.
At first, Beegun specialized in sales and rentals in neighborhoods where he’s lived and worked, including Bushwick and Midtown Manhattan. But it wasn’t long before he expanded his scope to include properties throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. He’s worked with renters and buyers, families and developers, native New Yorkers and transplants from around the world.
“I fell in love with it,” Beegun said. “It’s a venture I’ve become obsessed with. I enjoy the relationships I’ve developed with my clients.”
Balancing bartendering and brokering
One major similarity between Beegun’s old job and his new one is the human interaction. “They’re both people businesses, so you have be able to connect with people right away,” he said. “You have to convince someone you’re a professional in a short amount of time.”
Another is flexibility. When Beegun started bartending in 2001, he was fresh out of music school and needed work that allowed him to continue teaching drum lessons and playing gigs with his band. Since becoming a real estate agent, he’s learned that a broker’s schedule can be almost as versatile, but with one major difference.
“Being a real estate agent does have a flexible schedule,” he says. “But you’re actually flexing it not to your own schedule, but to your client’s schedule. You have to be available quite a bit.”
In terms of money, brokering is a big step up from working as a bartender: according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a New York metropolitan area real estate agent in 2013 was $97,190; during that same year, it was just $24,240 for bartenders.
But Beegun isn’t ready to give up Cain’s. “I love my regulars, I enjoy the lifestyle and I enjoy where I work,” he says. On the other hand, he says, “The profit in real estate could be quite a bit higher than bartending, and as far as a career goes, I can definitely see it as full time in the future.”
For now, he’s balancing the two careers, but it’s a lot of work. “As my real estate career grows, and it’s growing fast through both referrals and networking, I may have to gear more of my time toward real estate,” Beegun admits. Still, he is quick to add, “Although it’s a lot to handle, I truly enjoy doing both.”
This article was written by Arvind Dilawar, for theguardian.com on Saturday 25th April 2015 21.29 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010