I was driving the wife and meatbally pre-K daughter around my old neighborhood the other day, stopping at my favorite Astoria destinations: Sweet Afton, Brooklyn Bagels, Pita Pan, The Bohemian Beer Garden, blaa blaa blaa. The munchies hit me like a ton of bricks and I was right across the street from Studio Square Beer Garden. I happen to wander into Five Napkin Burger (formerly Cup Restaurant) as the Slider Happy Hour sign struck my inner caveman with a bad case of the shakes and drools.
So you want to be a bartender, huh? Reality is not the movies. Tom Cruise you are not. Review this checklist then let me know if you’re still up for the job.
1. Relationships. Check your commitments at the door. Working a bar is no place for people who value committed relationships. If you have a GF, BF, wife, husband – whatever, with certain “expectations,” each and every shift and all of your co-worker outings will be a strength test of the greatest magnitude. That’s cuz bartenders have to deal with “Ass Everywhere.” Easy pickin’s is de rigueur – a known occupational hazard.
2. You Can’t Remember 3 or 4 Drink orders. You can’t function as a proper bartender if you memory sucks balls. You don’t get to roll up to customers with a Dupe Pad, noting down their drink orders.
3. You’re Hard of Hearing. You must become a grand master at lip reading and body language. Loud music, loud people, foreign accents, a bar 3-deep, staff barking orders in the background all conspire to torpedo normal customer communication.
Fellow bartender and laureate Caveman, nails what will go down in history as the most accurate description of bartender relationships ever. The simple beauty and sincerity of this instant classic line rivals the diatribes of godly historic writers; immortals like Billly-boy Shakespeare.
“Having a girlfriend in this business is like bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a five-star buffet.”
Having been on the forefront of small business battle-lines, working tirelessly to ensure somebody else’s success, popularity and profits, I’ve obtained some highly valuable inside information on keeping bars afloat. In my career ups and downs, and varied bartending stints throughout the years, I’ve had the privilege of opening a couple of establishments. I’ve also had the misfortune of being a passenger on some doomed, sinking ships. Scenarios both good and bad have well-prepared me with a ton of practical knowledge I’ll need once I open up my own watering hole.
I’ve yet to own my own bar. I assure you however, that is what I’ve been working towards all these years. When I do, you can bet your ass I’m not going to subject myself to the same stupidity of my predecessors. Their loss = my gain. I’m pretty damned confident in my abilities. I’ve known for years what I want my bar to look like, where I want it, what the decor will be and the type of musicians I’ll have on stage. I’ve already envisioned the clientele I’ll be targeting, area demographics, the margins I’m looking at, foot traffic studies, neighboring competition, etc. In short, my mental business plan is nearly complete.
Today, we’re talking business operations. Let’s take a look at a handful of high-priority pitfalls I’ll be avoiding. Just maybe, this can also help keep your bar from getting shuttered:
One of the more interesting aspects of being a blogging bartender is poking around on the back-end (no pun intended) of the WordPress platform I use to run this bad-boy. Along with managing your posts, pages, look-n-feel (content and pretty stuff), it also provides you with all measure of statistics. Of those statistics, the Search Terms that lead mere mortals to my blog stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of sheer entertainment value. It never dawned on me to write this blog for the purpose of culling information, emulating Big Brother. But hey, there it is by default… “If you build it, they will come.” I must admit though, that I do get a kick out of taking a look once in a while.
So for your viewing enjoyment, I present to you the TTAB Zeitgeist for Q1 and Q2 2012. It’s not the complete list – there are actually hundreds of search terms. I haven’t included the more obvious ones like: Bartender Blog, Bartending in NYC, drink recipes, blaa, blaa, blaa. Those are givens. What I’ve posted below, are some of the more interesting (and head-scratching) search terms courtesy of teh Google. And no, none of this is made up.
Doug Quinn. He’s an old-school, good-looking, NYC classic bartender of Irish descent. Umm… or rather, he was a bartender – at the infamous P.J. Clarke’s on Third Ave. This place is an extremely popular, classic, pub on the East Side. It started life in 1884. Somehow, amidst a sea of gross looking, steel and concrete framed, glass-clad skyscrapers, this demure 2-story building has managed not to get razed.
The land on which it sits, is an extremely valuable office/commercial plot. I’m certain that large construction conglomerates have long tried courting the owners to sell out. It’s a New York City landmark bar – a throwback to the freaking post-civil war era – really. If you’ve never been, next time you’re in New York, it’s well worth a visit. Although it does get its fair share of Wall Street type, suit sporting urbanites, the place itself is quite the eclectic experience – a far cry from those neighboring Bro and Douchebag-filled sports arenas like Turtle Bay and Bierhaus.
Drinking all day is an endurance event. You are literally slowly poisoning yourself all day and seeing how long you can take it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Listening to your body is the number one most important thing. If it tells you, “I’ve had enough,” well, you had a good run, but you need to stop, because you could do some serious damage. However, your body may send the message, “Just gimme another 15 minutes. I’m still working on that last one,” in which case, game on. Respect those messages, though, and do your best to listen for them.