There are regular shifts… then, there are my shifts. I’m The Closer – the Mariano Rivera of my profession. I’ve always been The Closer. I’ve often hoped I wouldn’t always be, but that’s not how it works out.
I’ve just about always worked with a large group of bartenders at sizeable bars. There is a pretty big bar schedule to juggle. Managers have to do their best to find equity between: girls, guys, full-timers, part-timers, drama queens, the quiet guy, actors, day gig holders, BFFs who happen to work there, senior barkeeps, newbies, speedy bartenders, shitty bartenders, and a host of other variables. As you can imagine, it’s not easy. I’ve had to do it in years past and I don’t envy them one bit.
One of these days, I’m going to pen a book and title it: “You Can Fix Stupid – Bar and Restaurant Etiquette 101.” I’m a firm proponent of state governments force-feeding every student some kind of course on manners and social skills in High School… you know – practical crap. The other evening at the bar… I got pawned yet again. I’ve endured similar transgressions more times, over the years, than I care to recall. Below, you’ll find the followup to Article #1:
Compared to the small niche of Mixologist/Cocktail bloggers, and the even smaller subset of Bartender-Bloggers, I’m terribly wet behind the ears in El Blogospher-O. I should have kept a journal of my experiences beginning Day-1, in 1994. As of this writing, this blog is only 9 or 10 months old. Regardless, if you take a random sampling of my posts, you might come to the gnarly conclusion that I’m somewhat of a misogynistic pig of man – a dickhead. Fair enough in some circles I guess. I’ve even received comments from outsiders, shocked that I’m in the service industry at all due to my apparent “attitude.” In the actual bar/restaurant world, none of that is even remotely true. It doesn’t even accurately describe the somewhat sensationalized character responsible for this blog.
I must have mentioned chicks’ and boobs about eleventy billion times since I got started here. I’ve also gotten my Hatorade on extensively in terms of my frequent references to huge favoritism towards hot chicks in most of the NYC bartending world.
I’m not crazy. I simply have a penis and, like most men who haven’t been lobotomized, have allowed it to veer me off into the wrong direction at times. Furthermore, I’ve experienced the discrimination I document, first-hand for years.
Well, tonight, it will help me sleep ever so slightly better to know I’m not the only dick in town who can’t help but point out the obvious (no pun intended). Just head on over to these fine hormone laden authors’ blogs, who handily confirm my musings and experiences.
Wanted: Female Bartenders – Doug. I think this guy should have been a syndicated columnist or some shit as opposed to a blogger. He’s got just the right combination of content, funny bone, timing and tying the whole story together – a rare gift.
Bartenders: In packed neighborhoods teeming with nightclubs (Chelsea, The Village, MPD, LES, Bedford), filled with weekend bridge-and-tunnel drunkards, bartenders are expected to handle a bar 3 or 4 deep for hours, without suffering a mental breakdown or losing money.
Mixologists: Doesn’t happen. A lot of mixologists hone their skills either in boutique or high-end hotel bars – places like PDT and Apotheke, and The Four Seasons, Le Bernadin, and Le Cirque. They take their sweet-ass time, blending Employee Manual certified house cocktails to perfection. However, put them in a club setting, with an extremely loud DJ, and shirtless cokeheads begging for Goose-Redbull and a Gatorade, and they’d run crying for their Mamas.
“Now I make almost six figures working 30 hours a week – so $1,500 to $2,000 per week [bartenders pool money and each take home a fair share]. I also have health insurance. I’m really lucky.
How did you get to that point? I’ve had to pay my dues. In the Meatpacking District, employers wouldn’t even see people without three years of work experience, or without three really strong references.”
“The Abby Bar is the Shangri-La of freedom. No managers, you’re in charge, no doorman. You’ve got to bust your asses, but you’re in charge. The only way you get a job at the Abby Bar is by drinking there. Alcohol reveals your personality, and the bartender is always watching. I was a regular there, talking about how much I didn’t like my job, and one day, this bartender was like, do you want a job? I was the first person hired there in about three years.
In bartending, there’s a cult of personality. Even if you’re pulling in the money, clean as a whistle — if something about your personality is off, you’ll get fired.”
As a not so terrible looking bartender in downtown New York City, I get my fair share of attention both on the job and off. That attention comes from all types of folks: straight, gay, fat, skinny, old, young, rich, poor, stupid, smart, persistent, mute, etc. I’m often asked how I handle it all. My standard answer is always the same: it comes with the territory. You could literally weigh 400 pounds, have every other tooth missing, smell like a D-train subway staircase in July, and you would still routinely be handed some hot ass on a platter without even trying. It’s similar to how a lot of people treat cops and other uniformed workers. The difference with bartending is that you have the added benefit (I guess) of being in an entertainment setting – one that loosens up people’s inhibitions with alcohol and quite often, harder stuff.
I have many conservative as well as liberal values. I can’t be put in a box in terms of politics, religion, and other hot-button topics (abortion, death penalty, etc.). I tend to defy categorization. I do take a stand on a lot of issues – they just happen to be my own, not anyone else’s ideas of what I should believe or how I should behave. In a nutshell, I believe everyone should be free to do whatever the fuck they please as long as they don’t defame, hurt, or kill anyone else – whether I believe in what they’re doing or not – period. Live and let live is my motto. Just please refrain from shitting on my own parade – whatever parade I might be having. Similarly, I won’t bust up your party. Get it?
I spent 14 years living in LIC/Astoria beginning in 1995. My folks had sold the house I grew up in and fled, like so many other New Yorkers, to Florida’s Gold Coast. It became, and still feels like, my home. For two or three decades now, Astoria has been overun by Eurotrash cafes, where everyone is rolling deep in Benzes, BMWs and Range Rovers, incessantly smoking Marlboro Reds, and indulging in a massive overuse of hair product and Drakkar Noir. Among them, there is an unnatural obsession with image and name brand recognition. At the dime-a-dozen sidewalk cafes, you can often see a table of clowns sipping espresso in the morning, only to return from work in the evening, and see the same ones guzzling crap-ass Heinekens. The M.O. there is to collect rent money from suckers – no one actually holds down a real job.
For a long, long time, nightlife there consisted of nothing else but a sea of Ed Hardy-sporting Greeks, Croats, Serbs and the odd Albanian, all fist pumping to obscure, crappy, repetitive house jams. Few of them have any desire to intermingle. Thrown in for good measure, were a handful of trashy, old-man, Irish pubs – none that you would dare venture into – remnants of another time.
Our boy Jack Bauer (er., Kiefer Sutherland) in his finest hour.
Some of us have been there, haven’t we? The Angry Drunk – belligerent, argumentative, loud, “forgetting” to pay, getting all up in people’s faces, spit-talking, shockingly bold and touch-feely with the neighboring guy/girl. Quite often, the asshat behavior is followed by increasing – shall we say – “attention” from some very large, intimidating men with walkie-talkies. Often, the offenders awake a few hours later to find themselves (1) still arguing (2) behind bars or cuffed to a hospital gurney (3) covered in black-and-blue, bloody clothes, broken limbs and (4) seething in pain.
Over the years, I’ve seen, and have had to run interference for, far too many of these “incidents.” So, what is it exactly, that makes a douchebag so frenzied? What prompts a seemingly ordinary dude (and occasional chick) to invoke peoples’ ire to the point of a physical interaction and a resultant can of whoop-ass from the powers that be? It’s not the obvious [alcohol]. It all can be explained in one word – upbringing. I blame your idiotic, neglectful, alcoholic, dirt-ass parents. They are the ones, through direct involvement or blatant negligence, who are most responsible for who you are – a violent dickhead. Booze is simply a lubricant. It doesn’t make you an idiot. It just loosens you up and brings out what’s already under the surface.
Face it – everyone’s got a boss. Whether you’re a Porter or sit at the top as the owner, you report to someone. If you own the joint, and think you’re responsible to no one, you’r 100% doomed to grind your bar into the ground, obscurity or both. The customer, or guest, is everyone’s boss – period. This is the person who pays your mortgage/rent, alimoney/child-support, gives you crunk money, buys you jeans, a monthly MetroCard, the latest Jordans, pays for your cocaine habit and a myriad of other necessities and vices. Never forget it.
That said, as bartenders, let’s take a look at the person to whom we not so happily, report to directly in this business. That’s usually the Bar Manager. The Bar Manager is sometimes the owner, General Manager, Floor Manager or Head Bartender. One way or another, he/she is supposed to be responsible for running shit. Like many bosses, he/she often has a big head, combined with delusions of how things “should be,” while they not so reluctantly daydream and frequently share their goal opening up their own bars. There are occasionally decent or good bar managers. But, they’re few and far between. More often, you’re left to deal with these assclowns below.