Bar Maintenance 101 – Store-n-Pour Edition

Store and Pour Tops

Know what these are? They’re Store-n-Pour tops and they’re disgustingly dirty. This particular photograph is from a bar I worked at many years ago. Store-n-Pours are plastic containers juice containers that can be found at practically every bar on the planet. The idea is that you can “pour” when they’re in use, and you can “store” unused juices by swapping the spout for a plastic screw-on lid at the end of the evening. Outside of juices provisioned to come out of the WunderBar (soda gun), there is no more efficient access to commonly used juices, mixes, and other liquid preparations in a commercial bar environment.

There’s only one basic problem. Many, many people are lazy, incompetent, ignorant, or simply don’t give a shit. Bartenders are no different. Often, they’ll get away with what they’re allowed to get away with. Moreover, it’s Management’s fault that regular maintenance doesn’t get done despite expectations and sometimes, written procedures. Whatever the reason for worker bees not doing what they’re told, ultimately, it’s the responsibility of Management to enforce By-Laws and Standard Operating Procedures. Can’t do your job? Repeatedly “written up?” Re-training not effective? Then enforcement should ultimately result in termination and replacement. Pretty simple I think. Taking it a bit further, it’s Ownership’s responsibility to ensure the same of Management. Shit rolls downhill. Poor Ownership = poor Management = poor workmanship. The inverse is also true. Great, engaged, experienced, fair ownership also trickles down to the lowest rung of the ladder.

Which brings us back to Store-n-Pours. Pint, Quart, and Half-Gallon varieties are pictured below. Quart Store-n-Pours are by far the most common behind the bar as they’re easily maneuvered stored, iced, and refrigerated when and where called for.

Half-gallon and Gallon containers tend to be problematic. They get quite weighty. But the biggest problem with them isn’t their heft but their maneuverability. You can’t easily swing them and pour drinks as you can with quart-sized containers. Over time, the screw-on spouts tend to loosen up a bit. These things are cheap. They’re not manufactured with high tolerances as are something like transmission gears. They wear out. If you don’t grasp a somewhat full half-gallon Store-n-Pour with two hands, there is a high likelihood that it will collapse and fall to the ground.

When I first started bartending, on more than once occasion, I learned this lesson the hard way in that oodles of pre-batched Bloody Mary mix hit the ground hard and rained down on me and my barback something awful. I got to spend the remainder of those shifts looking not unlike Carrie from the movie and stinking to high Heaven of Tobasco-laden tomato juice. Not fun in the slightest.

Over weeks/months, and sometimes years, these containers get real dirty. Dried fruit juices, pulp, bacteria and dirt pile up. Store-n-Pour tops, like spirit pourers, have a large opening for output, and a small opening which serves as a “breather” or vent – allowing the contents to be poured smoothly.

When they’re not cleaned on the regular, the first thing that happens (aside from gunky tasting/smelling juices) is that the vent gets clogged. This results in juices that pour out very slowly. Woefully ignorant barkeeps often can’t figure out what’s wrong. Rather than clean them (again, many of them simply don’t understand the actual problem), endless bartenders stick a plastic straw in the Store-n-Pour. This has the effect of working as a much larger vent. Juice subsequently pours out very, very quickly. Problem solved, right? Ehh…. no.

Like any other food/beverage container, proper and routine maintenance must be followed lest you get dinged by the Department of Health or worse, a guest gets food poisoning, is able to pinpoint the source as your bar/restaurant, and promptly sues your business into non-existence. The photo at the top of this article is the result of a lack of routine maintenance.

Here are my personal recommendations:

  • Don’t overfill endless juice containers. For speed-rails, and frequently used iced mixtures, use only quart Store-n-Pours for common juices in order to minimize waste. Refill them as necessary.
  • Use Half-Gallon Store-n-Pours for heavily-used, pre-batched mixtures that are stored in coolers (e.g., Sangria,  Bloody Mary, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, etc.)
  • Label all containers stored in coolers. Actually, this is a Health Department requirement but many bars simply don’t comply. Even refrigerated juices can go bad in only a couple of days. Maintain a documented, regular cycle for discarding and replacement.
  • At the end of every evening, throw out all quart Store-n-Pour contents that have been  in active use behind the bar. It’s simply not worth keeping a pint or or two of fresh O.J. that’s been out for hours, for the sake of conservation and shrinkage. It will cost you far more to serve skanky or poisonous drinks in the long run.
  • At the end of every evening, all empty containers should be thoroughly washed according to Health Department specifications. Preferably, they should be sent through a commercial dish-washing machine a couple of times. This is because bacteria-killing high temperature water and commercial detergents typically do a better cleaning job than hit-or-miss hand washing.
  • Each evening, or at least once a week, Pourers or Tops should first be removed and soaked for hours (overnight) in hot water, bleach, and detergent. The opening routine should consist of rinsing and inspecting each Pourer for gunk.
  • For actual cooler storage, use the screw-on tops, not the pour spouts. Label them. There’s a reason they call these containers Store and Pours.

Do at the bar as you would at home. Keep your bar tidy and filth-free. Common sense right? Follow the recommendations above and you’ll avoid the scum-laden pourers you see in the photograph above. It’s nasty as all hell and makes drinks taste like utter crap. Barkeeps, quit being lazy.

 

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