Believe me, I can understand your issues with experience. I’m a mechanical engineering technologist (2 year diploma), but all the jobs I can find require at least 5 years experience (even “junior” or “entry level” positions), which is why I’m going back to upgrade to a bachelor’s, and continuing to bartend in the meantime.
One other piece of advice that I can give you about the restaurant and bar industry is that most places I’ve worked don’t even check references. If you claim to have been a server or bartender before, it will be easy to see that that isn’t true once you start working, but you could claim to have been a hostess before and most places you apply will never be the wiser, especially if you’re applying for a hostess position (which is a good foot in the door, especially with a good work ethic). In fact after 8 years in this industry and six different establishments, only one ever checked my references.