Like dainty fingers and manicured nails? Bartending my not suit you. Here are two more gashes within 4 shifts – this week alone. Lovely. Neither will heal anytime soon due to an exhaustive and painful routine of garnish tray Citric Acid baths, fishing in industrial-strength rust remover (Maraschino cherry juice), broken glass gymnastics, refreshingly contaminated wash water dips, filthy bar-rag “wax-on, wax off,” and an ever present flow of our cleanest [not] U.S. currency. Fun, huh? Here’s to hoping it won’t go all Bar Rot on my this time. Welcome to my world. Just gotta bear the pain and keep slinging them drinks with a smile. Upshot: NuFoam wash detergent kills HIV. So, at least I’m golden to get all raw dawg with some random Strange, right?
I’ve been fortunate enough to hold perhaps a dozen or so bartending gigs over the last 18 years. Some of those gigs have lasted several years. Other seasonal or event spots lasted just a few days. Some – well – have fallen somewhere in between, for whatever reason. I’ve also had the opportunity to manage; being on the other side of the interview table. I’ve spoken to hundreds of candidates and reviewed their requisite resumes. Like all hiring managers – I’ve consciously and intuitively made attempts to judge them up and down on everything from the lettuce in their teeth, to their odor, to which shoes they’re wearing, the hesitation to answering certain questions, and the speed and ease which with they fashion cocktails when I’ve told them to get behind the bar to prepare drinks X, Y and Z.
I started yet another bartending gig a couple of weeks ago after being out of work for nearly two freaking months. Being unable to find acceptable employment and blowing through savings for that long is, how shall we say… unnerving? I’m sure many of you can relate. It’s not as if I wasn’t looking or wasn’t utterly over-qualified in the venues I was applying to. There has been an unusual seismic shift in the New York City bartending air recently – one which I’m far from accustomed to. In my experience, I’ve never, ever gone more than 2 or 3 interviews without getting hired. To get my latest gig, I swear I’d been through about 20 or so interviews as well as 5 or 6 callbacks (second interviews) in about 6 weeks. For me, that’s downright shocking and unacceptable given my (1) extensive NYC experience (2) always-on game face (3) interview knowledge and skills and (4) forgive my audacity… appearance.
After my seasonal gig ended in October, I did manage to find a seemingly great gig in another Meatpacking spot right away, albeit in another mega-corporate, mega-conglomerate establishment with their hard and fast rule-book. It didn’t last only because we could not come to a consensus on schedule even though I had clearly stated my availability during the application process. Basically, I can’t fucking work repeated opening shifts due to my other obligations (read: day job). That little tidbit really puts a damper on finding a great bartending position as the majority of hiring managers are seeking nearly complete flexibility. Restaurant bars are essentially out of the question, in my case. Unless you have seniority, or are sexing the G.M., you really can’t demand only night shifts. That basically left me nightclubs and some pubs as only options. So be it.
I mean look… I’m old and experienced enough to know that interviewing in this industry is often akin to an acting/modeling cattle-call from several perspectives. You do not get excited and put your proverbial eggs in one bartending/serving basket. That’s simply stupid. However, I’ve managed to sometimes break my own rules as a result of a particular interview or two where I’ve really bonded with the owners/managers, sometimes going so far as to have them engage me in highly personal, salacious speak – laughing and joking as if we had known each other for years.
If you haven’t noticed, this town is uber-competitive in every calling – even McDonald’s piss-boy positions. The higher-paying, easier, and more prestigious the job, the more difficult getting hired becomes (again, unless you’re blessed enough look like bobble-head, trophy-GF Kate Upton, Bar Rafaeli or some reasonable facsimile).
That said, for your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of why you may not be getting the job your heart so desires, tho you swear up and down the dude/chick loved you to pieces during the interview:
Your job is not like my job. You sit in your comfy, leather-ette Herman Miller recliner, basking in the warm glow of Earth Saver florescent fixtures, eyes transfixed on that formula-heavy, Excel spreadsheet, listening mercilessly to the Senior Director of Sales wax about his penchant for your Sales organization to make next quarter’s quotas. You’re on a Web sharing, whiteboard session with a dozen other mid-level managers. You nefariously test your Mute button by saying “hello” once in a while, ensuring it’s properly working, before launching into an expletive-laced tirade with your cubicle neighbor about how your hate your job, your supervisor, and your measly 7.5% increase this year. All the while, you’re scheduling 2 “personal days” off in the adjacent window’s Human Resource Management System. You get to do that…
Bartending? Forget it. You’re talking apples and oranges. Got an unexpected hot date tomorrow? It’s Thanksgiving next week and you’re planning on chowing down with the fam? Cut your finger? Need some sutures on that bad boy? Broke an arm? Forget it – you’re totally screwed. Welcome to the world of bartending – where the reality is, every day is no day off. You get your ass to work, or you don’t get paid; or, you lose your job.
Fellow scribe and Master Dispenser of “Licka that Gets Your Girlie in the Mood Quicka,” The Realbarman, has an epic win of a treat your
holiday Christmas pleasure. Like a modern-day Hemingway, he ever so lovingly and graciously documents the nightly bar flow of Cougers and M.I.L.F.s, Bitches and Bros. It’s Christmas – so why not embrace and celebrate the bedouchery instead of guzzling the usual Hatorade? Here’s a snippet of the Pulitzer-worthy screed:
…when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But eight raucous Douchebags, lacking manners or fear.
They strutted in loudly, administering fist pounds and “Bros”,
While scanning the dance floor, for bitches and hoes.
“We came to hook up”, they boasted, “We came here to party”,
They came donning their game shirts: Affliction, Ed Hardy.
They swooped in on young ladies, with no etiquette or charm,
Uninvited they laid their hands, on their backs and their arms…
Oh Jeff the Server. How we
envy loathe thee for getting all loose at the Micros terminal and speaking/typing your mind. How we all [secretly] wish we could tell guests how we really feel, don’t we? Newsflash Jeff: (1) it seems you skipped the corporate training manual’s sensitivity training chapter (2) your parents have failed you something awful (3) you’re going to have the worst time finding a new gig – especially in Hospitality (4) you’re a straight-up, god-damned schmekel tip of the highest order and (5) in the infamous words of that dude with the terrible dome rug, you’re fired! How in the hell did the filter between your noggin and your finger tips fail you so miserabley as to assign the term “Fat Girls” to one of your checks and subsequently hand it to your guests?
Gotta give a shout-out to Gawker media – Jizz…. uh… Gizmodo in particular. My fellow tech brothers (while normally waxing on all things steampunkerrific and modern technoboobery) seem to relish educating their nerd following with an occasional tidbit on – I don’t know – the finer points of professional “imbibery.” Part of me suspects that some of their editorial staff are former Hospitality F.O.H.’ers. Another part of me believes that since they incessantly drop knowledge on all the whizzbang gadgets most folks can’t yet afford, they spend their ginormous salaries performing immensely valuble “field tests” at the neighboring McSwiggans Ale House – all in teh name of science.
See my disclaimer. But I’ll mention it briefly here again: I am not a lawyer. I make no claims in regards to the legitimacy of anything I publish in this article, or any other on my blog. I will not be responsible for your [bluntly wrong] assumption that I’m dispensing legal advice. If you choose to run with it, without appropriate validation, you’re an idiot.
Since I’ve been hammered with this question lately, I thought I’d address it directly and publicly. The answer may vary from state to state, and even municipality to municipality. I live and work in New York City so my answer will be based on local hospitality experience and familiarity with New York State and City laws. I can’t speak for Nevada, Florida, or Timbuktu. If you need additional information, or if you’re opening your own bar, I highly recommend you hire the services of a reputable corporate attorney. Those sharks are abundant in this town – you’ll have zero trouble conjuring one up.
Now that the mumbo-jumbo is out of the way, let’s get to the crux of the matter…
Bottle of Grey Goose at Ye Old Liquor Store: $30. Same bottle at a prime NYC club: $350. Bottle imported beer at Felipe’s Corner Bodega: $1.75. Lounge price? $10. From the consumer side of the bar, we all know it makes zero financial sense. Yet, throngs of college-edumacated adults, who all took Economics 101 at the least (or who are Wharton MBA’s and Hedge Fund managers at best), continually make terrible business decisions by imbibing in the company of others. WTF? Why in the hell do rational people knowingly throw away money at some dark alter, voluntarily ingesting crap-tasting mind-altering fluids that – quite honestly – quench your thirst nowhere near as well as water or Gatorade? The explanation is simple: it’s The Bartender’s Theory of Social Anarchy.
If Moral Bedlam and Inhibition could be plotted against Time and Alcohol Consumption what’d you’d wind up with is a non-linear,increasing (to a point) curve (see Figure 1 – above). In Mathematics, it would be described as an Exponential Curve where y = b^x. I was big on Calculus in college – a Mechanical Engineering major – what can I say? I’ve been studying the situation and collecting critical data (from both sides of the bar) for decades. My findings are described herein.
This blonde chick’s name is Karolina Obrycka – a bartender at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn, in Chicago. The overly concerned looking dude on the right – who was apparently never informed that misfitting JCPenney dress shirts and 80′s Paul Teutel Sr. hair styles are out – is none other than [former] Chicago Police Officer Anthony Abbate. Oh? You say you haven’t heard of or seen this this cute couple in action? For those of you who haven’t, take a look at love-fest that ensues between the two when P.O. Abbate has a few drinks in him. This incident and video is from 2007.
Ah.. New York City! The land where every other storefront is seemingly a bar or restaurant. So many choices – so little time. There are thousands or maybe even tens of thousands of bars and restaurants in this town. It makes for some ridiculously difficult eating/drinking choices. The NYC Department of Health is charged with ensuring that every single one of those establishments is in compliance with standardized Food Handling and Sanitary Practices. The trouble is, there are only a few dozen Inspectors on the streets. It can be months or even years between (supposedly random) inspections – if they ever occur at all. An unfortunate consequence is the “Security by Obscurity” that many bars/restaurants follow as a result.
That environment has lead to a few more or less standardized practices – some of which I’m going to shed some light on. The majority of venues I’ve worked in have documented food handling policies and are damn near O.C.D. about keeping clean, constantly driving their Gestapo floor managers to beat their F.O.H. and B.O.H. staff with the Enforcement Stick. On the flip side, there are a whole lot of dirt-ass owners and managers in this town that simply do not adhere to basic tenants of cleanliness. They know they’re not going to get inspected often, and casually let the resident rats go about their business, and repeatedly violate the public by doing stupid shit like serving week-old, redressed, cooked chicken.