Hey Bartender…Tips and Tales from a Local Server of Spirits


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How long have you been a bartender?
“I’ve been a bartender for 15 years.”

And you work another job as well?
“I do.”

What made you decide to bartend in addition to your other job?
“I love people and it’s a social outing for me as well as the money. Everybody likes to have cash in their pocket.”

Why bartend as opposed to a part-time somewhere else?
“Fast money and social. I work another job, so I don’t get out much. Basically, this is a dual purpose where I can be social. Like I said, I love people and it supplements my income.”

Bartenders have that stereotype of being “unlicensed” psychiatrists. Do you find that to be true?
“Yes! I should’ve gone to college because I’d be making way more money doing the exact same thing that I’m doing right now. It is true. I know everything about everyone…all their business. Their families. You get to know people. Especially the regulars. You know everything from their children to their spouses to their jobs. Sometimes you just need an outlet, little “vents” to a non biased person and like “Ugh, this day!” Then you get to go home and be happy because you already vented. It is a plus.”

Has anyone ever confided something in you that you wished they hadn’t?
“Yes! (Laughter)

Are you able to give an example?
“I don’t think so. I think that would be too telling. It’s just hard, especially, when people come in and talk about their spouse. Then they bring their spouses in. Sometimes you know details about their personal life that you really shouldn’t. Especially if you’re not friends. It’s different if you’re friends. Because you’re friends, of course you know their stuff. But when it’s not someone as close and you know some of their most intimate details of their life and they don’t know you know the intimate detail of their life because their spouse might’ve confided in me, that kind of gets a little hairy. Personally, I just keep my mouth shut. Somebody tells you something in confidence, you put it in the vault, so to speak.”

Have you ever been stiffed?
“Yes.”

That must be infuriating! Some people claim it’s because they can’t afford it, as an excuse.how do you feel about that?
“Then have one less drink. And listen, I don’t care if you’re sitting here for 10 hours, a dollar is not killing anyone. If you’re sitting here for all that time…
It’s a reflection of me, is how I feel. If you’re not tipping me, what did I do so shitty that you stiff me? What service did I not give to make you think that after you sat here for four hours, that you’re entitled to not tip me? Because for that four hours, I only made like $20, my shift bank. I depend on that income. And I do understand that sometimes, even with my regulars, that people are on fixed incomes and that by the end of the month money’s a little tighter, that somebody that normally would tip me $5 all the time might tip me a dollar. I’m very ok with that. But when it’s done all the time, that’s like saying “You suck. I don’t care about you. I don’t appreciate your conversation, your service, your company for that matter.” Sometimes I take it a little to heart. I’m good at what I do. It is only bar-tending, but I feel like you take pride in everything you do. We all have bad days, of course, where “they’re” working my nerves, and it’s usually the ones that don’t tip. They’re like “Can you get me this? Can you do this for me? Can you get me that?” And they run your ass, and then leave me change. That infuriates me more than if they leave me nothing! If you left me change, like not even a dollars worth of change, seriously, don’t even leave me anything. I don’t want it. I’ve told people, “No, take it back. You need it more than I do.” Really? You just sat here for three hours and left me 35 cents? I don’t like to be like that but sometimes you can’t help it.”

What was the best tip you ever got?
“$100. It was a birthday party that came in. Actually, I got more than that, but it was a wad of money from the person whose birthday it was. It was them and about four other people. So it was closer to $150 in the end. I saw them (the birthday person) personally throw in $100 though. That’s a good night. And I did for them because there was a lot of people. You’re running cause people are ordering shots and what not. I’m not saying that I “earned” $100, but I did for them and they appreciated it. I’m very fortunate, I have a lot of really good customers here that really do take care of me. That’s why I stay.”

What are some “rules” of being a bar patron?
“Don’t have beer left in your cup and yell for the bartender at the other end of the bar, waving your glass, asking for another beer when you’re not even finished the one you have. That’s very irritating, especially when you’re waiting on other customers. I’m scanning the bar and when you’re empty, I’ll get to you.
Don’t slam your glass. If you slam your glass, you get a five-minute time out from me. And they all know it. (Laughter) It’s just rude.
Please wash your hands when you go to the bathroom because your bartender has to touch your glass when it’s empty. I hate when I watch a guy go in and they’re still zipping as they’re walking out the door. Like, I have to touch your glass and I know you didn’t wash your hands. It’s disgusting in general, let alone when you are like, “Oh God, I know you just did that” (laughter).
Know when to say when. Sometimes people wanna keep hanging and keep hanging and then next thing you know, you’re a belligerent drunk. Been there, done that. Cut yourself off when you need to. If the bartender suggests, in a nice way, that you’ve had enough, then you have had enough.”

That being said, I’m sure you’ve had to flag people?
“They call me the queen of flagging.”

I would imagine that doesn’t always make you very popular. How do you handle that?
“The law states that I can’t serve someone who is publicly and visibly intoxicated. The verbiage is “a visibly intoxicated person”. VIP. If you’re a VIP, I am not allowed to serve you. You’re drunk, sorry. Come back tomorrow.”

Have you ever had someone become belligerent?
“Yes. I physically removed them from the establishment. I threatened to call the cops. Usually, I’m pretty good and can make people leave though. Usually, if they’re already riled up, other customers tend to want to help me. But sometimes they don’t help. What people don’t understand is, drunks have a hard enough time one on one focusing, now you’ve got people behind the person that’s trying to talk to them and they can’t focus on you. My customers always wanna help and I say “if I need help, I swear you’ll hear me”, and usually I can talk them out. I’m pretty good that way. Usually they get more belligerent if customers try to chime in and they’re like “who does that guy think he is?, and stuff like that. I like to handle it myself. I think somewhere in their subconscious they’re thinking “oh, I must be being a real asshole if she’s asking me to leave” (laughter).

Are you ever concerned, when some people leave, on how they’re getting home?
“Always. I’ve had people drive people home. I’ve had people come in here fucked up and I wouldn’t serve them but I make sure they get home safe. I’ve driven people home. I’ve made people wait till I get done to drive them home and have had others drive them home. I’ve called cabs. One thing about me is that I don’t over serve to the point of obliviation. I know a lot of bars do that. I don’t believe in that. I know I’ve been served in places where I’ve been “gone” and I wish the bartender would’ve cut me off. They didn’t give a shit how I was getting home or whatever. It’s a responsibility issue. You need to make sure, even if they’re walking, that they get home safe. I have customers that live down the street, especially if she’s a female, and ask someone to make sure she gets to her house. I don’t care if you stand on the corner and watch that she gets in the door. I’ve walked people home. They’ve come from other bars and stopped in here, and I wouldn’t serve them and they live near here…it’s the bartenders ultimate responsibility. If anything happens to your customers, the bartender is the one that gets sued. Just like serving someone under age. Under age rarely even come in here cause they know I card everybody. If you don’t look like you’re 50, you’re getting carded.”

What advice would you give someone who is looking to bartend?
“Don’t always believe what the customers tell you because they’ll tell you everything’s free and do all kinds of crazy stuff. But you know what, people come to the bar to relax, unwind, let off steam. We’re not church. And you have to kind of deal with it like a free spirit. If there’s somebody negative that comes in here, you know what I tell them? “Hey, see that door? Can you do me a favor and just walk back out and leave that negativity on that side? Then come back in because we’re all here to have a good time”. This is our unwinding spot. When you start spewing negativity it’s like a cancer. So you just have to be kind of light-hearted and put a smile on your face and treat everyone good. Every person that walks through the door is a potential permanent customer. You have to think of it that way. And looks are deceiving. Don’t judge a book by its cover. A lot of people do that. Someone that might look like a pauper might be one of your best customers.”

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