Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Retired (re·tired/riˈtīī(ə)rd) is defined by the dictionary as being an adjective that means having left one's job and ceased to work.
"Once a bartender, always a bartender." That's what a friend of mine had told me back in March when I broke the news to her and all of the rest of my friends that I had worked my last official shift as a bartender earlier this year. I told everyone that I had thrown in my bar towel for good this time. I had moved on to the corporate world as a licensed esthetician, working as a Beauty Advisor. No more working nights. No more working weekends. What's up steady paycheck? Hello health and dental insurance! How you doing 401K?
Her response? "Yeah right. You'll be back."
My schedule is now completely opposite of what it used to be for the past eight years. Instead of getting off work at 3 am, I'm now getting up at 3 am to get ready for work for the East Coast clients. Its extremely hard going from being a night owl to a morning person. Even though I have had my "new" schedule for the past nine months, I am still struggling to get used to the early mornings. I'm just not a morning person.
For the most part, I enjoy what I do. I learn something new everyday. I'm constantly challenged on the training and education I have received thus far in my industry. I am a closet nerd so I love researching the answers to questions clients ask me that I don't have a solid answer for. The gratis I receive working as a Beauty Advisor is a definite perk to the job. Plus, clients always manage to keep things interesting with their comments, questions, suggestions and/or vents. Even though I no longer sling drinks behind the bar, I'm still working in a customer service position. Just this time, it's mainly with sober people.
I recently came across a letter I wrote to myself on the night of my last official shift working as a bartender. Even though it's more than four months old, I thought it be appropriate to post here:
"Tonight is my last night of bartending. I'm finally retiring and getting out from behind the bar. Can I get a moment of silence?
No, seriously. I am finally leaving the world of bartending behind for good. I first started as a bartender over eight years ago as a way to pay the rent through college. I've had so many amazing (and not so amazing) experiences. I've met an incredible amount of people, both sober and not so sober, along the way. The time has finally come where I set down my bar key and take the bar rag out of my back pocket for the last time.
As many of you may know, I've been in the midst of switching over from the bar/restaurant industry into the beauty/skin care industry. I received my esthetician license last year and have been working full-time as a Beauty Advisor ever since while still managing to bartender a few nights a week. I'm tired. I'm cranky. My heart is no longer into crafting cocktails for a thirsty public well into the wee hours of the night, especially since now I have to get up at 4 am for my day job. Getting up early really takes the magic out of everything.
I leave the world of bartending with no regrets. I've worked behind the bar at a variety of places, each one teaching me a thing or two about myself and mankind in general. I cherish all of my stories, both good and bad. I loved the flexible schedule bartending gave me to pursue my dreams and hobbies. I appreciated always having cash in my hand. I enjoyed teaching people my craft during my stint as a bartending school instructor. Most importantly, I've loved sharing all of my stories, experiences and advice with my loyal blog readers.
In my true fashion of seeing things through the glass is half-full perspective, I have jotted down a few reasons why retiring from bartending is going to be so awesome:
1. More sleep means less wrinkles.
2. My manicures will last longer.
3. No more late night snacking. Something about bartending late night always made me hungry.
4. There will be more time for working out in the gym so I can work off all of those years of late night snacking.
5. My social life will start existing again.
6. There wont be so many old men trying to hit on me on a nightly basis.
7. I will have more time and energy to dive headfirst into my new career.
So join me in raising a shot glass to my eight, solid years of service working behind the bar."
I've tried this "retired" thing once before. You think I'll last? I guess time will tell.
Friday, March 18, 2011
A night out drinking with friends can get pretty costly, pretty quickly. You saddle up to the bar. She buys the first round of drinks. You buy the second round of drinks. Somewhere after the fourth or fifth round, you've lost count of whose turn it is to buy drinks. With a little liquid courage, you catch yourself saying "screw it" and now you're buying everyone in your group a round of drinks. If it's happy hour prices, then your generosity wont hurt your wallet too bad. But happy hour only lasts for a couple of hours until the drinks go back to full price.
What if there was a way where you could buy your friends cheap drinks at anytime of the night for prices even cheaper than what you'd pay during happy hour? The new app called Bartab is the self-proclaimed "Home of the $1 drinks" and allows you to buy drinks for yourself and your friends from any mobile device using Facebook, for only $1. That's right. You can buy your real friends, real drinks for only a dollar.
The basic concept behind Bartab is that you pay $1 to send a friend a drink. Your friend then claims the drink at the bar and pays $1 for their drink, plus tip. Please, for the love of God, do not stiff your bartender. This would be as bad as stiffing a bartender at an Open Bar.
Just signing up for the app, you receive a $5 bar tab that allows you to send out five drinks to either your friends or yourself for free. If any of your friends signs up for the app, you instantly receive a $10 bar tab. If you need to add money to your bar tab, just visit the "My Account" tab on the webpage. Bartab accepts Visa or MasterCard.
The app is a win-win for everyone involved. You get to buy cheap drinks for your friends. Your friends get to enjoy drinks on the cheap. The app brings new customers into the bar.
Here is how to app works. You install the free Bartab app from the app store, onto your mobile device. You then log into your Facebook account from the Bartab app. Once you're connected, pick a bar, the drink you want to purchase and choose your lucky Facebook friend. The drink is then sent to your Facebook friend via a posting on their wall and through a text message on their phone, giving them specific instructions on how to claim their drink. Once the drink is sent to the lucky Facebook friend, they then have 90 days to claim their drink. Recipients can claim their drink by showing the bartender their digital drink ticket. Once the drink recipient accepts their digital drink ticket, they have five minutes to claim their drink from the bartender.
You don't have to have an iPhone in order to use this app. Any sort of mobile device will do. There's the iPhone app, the Android app and there's also a mobile website that works with any phone that has an internet browser. If you're super old school, you can always redeem your drinks through SMS (good old text messaging.)
There are currently 14 different markets that contain over 600 bars in the network already. If you live in San Francisco, you can send a drink to your friend who lives in New York. A friend of mine who first introduced me to this app lives down in Los Angeles and was able to send me a drink that I could redeem here in San Francisco.
Please keep in mind that you can only claim one drink per hour and only one drink per bar a day. This app is perfect for bar hopping and pub crawls. Already redeemed your digital drink ticket at the bar? No problem. Wait an hour. Then visit another bar in the network to redeem a digital drink ticket from the next bar.
Also, just in case it wasn't already obvious, because we are buying alcoholic drinks here, you must be at least 21 years of age to buy and redeem drinks using the app.
Download the Bartab app and start being the fancy pants friend who buys the first round of drinks. Chances are, the more friends you have on the network, the more chance they'll buy you a drink right back.
Please drink and redeem your digital drink tickets responsibly. Tip your bartenders generously.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The first guests that sit at your bar will sometimes determine which way your night will go. You may get the tourists who show up an hour before opening and can't understand why you won't serve them drinks while they wait for the restaurant to be open and get seated at their table. If I clocked-in and started serving people drinks before I had a chance to set up my bar, not only would it take way longer than needed to make those first drinks, but I would be setting myself up to be running behind for the rest of the night. I appreciate customers and their enthusiasm to patronize our business, but we have a specific "opening" time for a reason.
Then you may have the first reservation of the night for the business party of 15 who slowly trickles in. Since it's not our restaurant's policy to seat a party until most of the guests have arrived, the hostess will direct them to the bar to have a drink while they wait. One by one, they show up straight from work. They're thirsty and ready to unwind. They're usually happy to see me (the bartender) as they have a seat and order drinks. Having a party like this as first guests of the night are great. Not only is it a steady pace of making drinks, but they usually all want it on one tab, pay using a company credit card and generally always tip a little more than 20%.
Solo diners are another nice way of starting off the night. They're not only thirsty, but hungry. They wont monopolize your bar space. They usually already know what they want to eat and drink. A couple glasses of wine and a steak later and they're on their way.
And then there are the people who come in at the beginning of the night who just want coffee. That's right, coffee. These people mistake our restaurant sign outside for a cafe or a Starbucks.
We had just opened for the evening. My bar was all set up, I was in a great mood and ready to make some drinks. I had the first four people who were part of a larger business party reservation sitting at the bar drinking beer and wine as they waited for the rest of their party to show up. A party of three tourists came in and headed for one of my bar tables in the corner. I thought about telling them that I couldn't have a party of three sit at a table clearly only big enough for two, but they were tucked back in the corner and made it very clear to me that they were not having dinner, just drinks.
As I walked out from behind the bar and around the group of people drinking at the bar to approach the table with three menus, the old man (clearly in-charge of the table) shooed away the menus. In his broken English, he told me that they would just be having coffee. I immediately regretted not having them sit at the bar in the first place. If I had known all they wanted was coffee, I would've saved the table for actual diners and made the three of them sit at the bar. Judging from the man's broken English, I knew that he wasn't from a country where servers and bartenders relied on their tips as a living wage. No matter how much energy I put into this table, I knew that my tip wasn't going to be anywhere near 20%.
Knowing that I had an upcoming rush of people coming in for drinks and dinner, I set up their table so that I wouldn't have to keep coming back to visit. I brought to the table three pots of coffee, plenty of cream and sugar and their bar tab. I had a rush scheduled to come in over the next half hour. I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to serve all of those drinks and not have to worry about fighting through the crowd just to serve a measly cup of coffee.
My bar quickly filled up to capacity with the rest of the large business party reservation along with a couple of bar diners and a few other drinkers who were waiting to be seated at their table. Physically, I was no longer able to come out from behind the bar. My server drink tickets had started to coming in. There were too many people to navigate through the crowd. There were too many drinks that needed to be made. At this point, I barely had time to spare with taking care of the drink orders and the people actually sitting at the bar.
Once the large party had been seated and the diners at the bar had received their main entree, the business at the bar had died down considerably. I had enough time to start polishing glasses and prepare myself for the next rush. The man from my coffee table turned around and dropped the tab on the bar with just enough cash to cover the tab, along with a two dollar tip.
Yup, just as I had originally called it. I'm glad that I made the decision to take care of the rest of the bar and my servers who I knew would properly take care of me right back instead of going out of my way for the coffee party.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Breaking up with someone is hard enough to do in the privacy of your own home. So why would someone ever want to do it at a public place like a restaurant or bar? Besides the fact that its embarrassing behavior on the feuding couple's part, it puts the people serving the pair in an uncomfortable spot. If a couple is in the midst of a heated argument, when is it really the right time to ask if they want another round or if they're ready to order dinner?
One of my servers had a couple sitting in her section that had come into the restaurant to celebrate their anniversary. The woman had arranged ahead of time for the server to have a chilled bottle of champagne waiting on their table. All the man had to do was show up, smile, drink the champagne with his partner and enjoy a nice, steak dinner. According to server, only after fifteen minutes of sitting at the table, they got into an argument and were requesting the food they had ordered to be doggy-bagged and the bottle of wine they ordered to be corked.
Watching a breakup is almost as uncomfortable as being part of the breakup. At least if you're a server, you can excuse yourself from the table and watch from afar to gauge when a good time to approach the table would be. As a bartender, you have nowhere to go, giving you front row tickets to Heartbreak Hotel, even if you didn't want to catch the show. All you can do is polish glasses and wipe down the bar, hoping that one of heated parties will be kind enough to close out their tab and take the fight somewhere else.
I'll never forget the time I witnessed a couple breakup at my bar. A woman had come into the restaurant and sat at the bar by herself. I poured her a glass of wine and asked if she would be dining at the bar. She told me that she was a half-hour early for her reservation and was waiting for her dinner date. Forty-five minutes and three glasses of wine later, the woman's date walked through the door. Before he could have a seat at the bar and set his stuff down, the woman began yelling at him for being late. Awkward. Especially since these were the only two people I had at the bar.
At first, I thought the woman was overacting. The man was technically only 15 minutes late for the dinner reservation and she was early. From what I could gather from the argument, this was not the first time the man had been late. Apparently this would be his last because as soon as she finished saying her piece, she asked me to close out her check and then left the restaurant in a huff. The guy paced in the bar area a couple of times before leaving the restaurant himself.
The next time you foresee a breakup in your future, please pay special attention to your surroundings. Bartenders and servers have enough crap to deal with from the dining public already. The last thing they should have to deal with is playing referee in a love spat. If there's no way around making a scene and having the breakup in the middle of a bar or restaurant, then the LEAST you can do is leave a 20% tip.
Friday, March 11, 2011
As I watched one of my server's snack on the green olives while she helped me stock my garnish tray one night last week, I came to the realization that out of all my years of bartending, I've never tried a green olive. Not once. Not ever.
Green olives are the staple garnish at any bar. All bars have some sort of variation of a green olive. Somehow I've managed to avoid snacking on green olives for the past eight years. I don't think it's anything against green olives. I've just never been tempted to eat anything out of a garnish tray. Maybe it's from all of the dirty, filthy hands I've seen reach into the garnish tray throughout a shift. Or maybe its the fact that garnishes aren't always as fresh as we'd like to believe them to be. You don't know want to know what some of those garnishes look like by the end of the night, when the lights are turned on, after hours.
Have you ever wondered what olive juice really is? I'll give you a hint. It's not really juice at all: Bartending 101: What is olive juice?
Thursday, March 3, 2011
#10: The customer is not always right, especially in a strip club.
Working in a bar is completely different than working in an office or working in any type of retail position. Granted, bartenders are still in the business of customer service and catering to the needs of the customer. When alcohol is added to the mix, it changes the playing field entirely. Most customers don't have a problem controlling their alcohol intake. It's the people who can't control themselves after consuming alcohol that makes the job interesting.
I always managed to work the whole "the customer is not always right" to my advantage whenever I worked behind the bar. Granted, only the most awful customers would ever experience the wrath of my "the customer is not always right" bartender attitude. Nice customers always received my best customer service. I was always considered one of the nicer bartenders behind the bar at the club I worked at. As glamorous and fun as bartending in a strip club may seem, if you work behind the bar long enough in one of those places, it eventually starts to eat at your soul and make you bitter. The bitterness eventually comes out in the form of a "take no shit" attitude towards the customers.
Tell, Don't Ask
In a regular bar or restaurant, if a customer becomes overly intoxicated and starts bothering other paying customers, they will probably be given a warning or two and eventually be asked nicely to close out their bill and leave. It doesn't quite happen like that in a strip club. Sometimes customers might be given a warning or two for their bad behavior. If the customer fails to comply with the rules consistently, no one will ask the customer to leave. They will tell the customer to leave.
When you have a club full of scantily dressed women and drunk men, it makes perfect sense why there are strict rules in place. If a customer wants to stay, the customer has to play by the club's rules. When it comes to club management, there is no room for discussion. You either follow the rules or you leave.
My philosophy when bartending in a strip club was if you're there, you're there to spend money. If you had money to buy a lapdance, you had enough money to tip the bartender a dollar or two for your drinks. It always irritates me whenever I get stiffed, but it really got under my skin when I was bartending in a strip club. I would always give customers two chances (two rounds) to redeem themselves. If they stiffed me on the first round, I figured they were probably short on cash and would hook me up on the second round after they paid a visit to the ATM machine. If the customer stiffed me on the second round, I'd give them a dirty look. On the third round, I'd avoid the stiffing customer as long as I could. I would make sure to help everyone else around them. Sometimes the customer would catch on to my passive scolding and put money on the bar. As soon as that would happen, all would be forgiven. If the customer still didn't have a clue and asked me why I wasn't helping them, I'd kindly explain to them that since they had chosen to stiff me two times in a row, I'd no longer be serving them for the rest of the night.
The Snappers, Whistlers and Wavers
If you want to piss off a bartender, try snapping your fingers or whistling at them. It's the fastest way to either get kicked out of a place or to not be served at all. In the strip club, if a customer snapped their fingers or whistled to get my attention, I'd be sure to stop whatever I was doing and inform them in front of the entire bar that I wasn't a dog and I refused to be treated like one. This was always quite effective on a Friday or Saturday night when the bar would be packed. The public scolding would work twofold. First, the Snapper/Whistler knew right away that his bad behavior would not be tolerated at the bar. If he wanted to be served, he had to be polite and wait his turn, at the end of the line. Secondly, the rest of the bar would shame the Snapper/Whistler on his outrageous behavior.
The Wavers just get on my nerves. Wavers are always the people whom you know have never worked a day of their life in either a bar or restaurant. They have no clue as to how bar etiquette works. To them, they think as soon as they approach the bar, someone should be willing and able to serve them right away, never mind the rest of the people who were at the bar before them. The Wavers always seem to be the leader of their group. As soon as they approach the bar, they wave at you and then turn around to ask all of their buddies what they want to drink. Whenever I had a Waver come into the strip club, I'd mock them by waving right back at them and then purposely help the person right next to them. I knew I could always get away with going out of my way to piss off the Wavers in a strip club. My mocking them and their self-righteous attitude always taught them a valuable lesson in bar etiquette: if you want to be served at a bar, don't wave at the bartender and have your drink order ready.
Most times in a customer service situation, if a customer is rude to you, you have to be nice back. It's the nature of the business. Working in a restaurant, I constantly have to bite my tongue and have a completely different conversation with a rude customer than the one I have in my head. That didn't seem to be the case in a strip club. If a customer was rude to me, I was always rude right back to them. I refused to take any of their crap. Management always backed us up too. I guess they figured with all of the crap we already had to put up with all of the sleazy dudes trying to pull one over, if someone got postal on us, management had no problems yelling at them as they kicked their rude ass out.
Bartending in a strip club, it was a requirement that we had to measure out all of the alcohol for every single drink we poured. This rule was definetly not up for discussion between the management and staff. People would get fired for not using their jiggers to pour alcohol into drinks. There were cameras everywhere watching our every move. The club made a lot of money on alcohol sales. In the management's minds, if a bartender wasn't properly measuring out the alcohol for a drink, the bartender was stealing. Stealing is always the quickest and easiest way for any bartender to get fired, at any bar.
So if a customer ever complained about there not being enough alcohol in their drink, I'd snatch the drink right out of their hands and look them dead in the eye as I poured their drink down the sink. I would then grab the glass, set it on the bar and have the customer watch me remake their drink using the jigger. I'd inform them that it was the club's rules that every drink have a specific measure of alcohol in them. If they had problems tasting the alcohol, they could either order a double and pay for a double or drink somewhere else.
I have found in my experience as a bartender that whenever a customer complains about not being able to taste the alcohol in their drink, they're being cheap and trying to pull a fast one by getting more alcohol without having to pay for it. This customer probably even stiffed me on the first round. And then there's the customer who orders a drink that is loaded with sugar and mixer and complains when they can't taste the alcohol. If you want to taste the alcohol, then order alcohol, not a drink that is loaded with sugar and mixer.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Many of my fellow bartenders and I always seem to be comparing just who has the ugliest, driest and cracked hands. It's a painful badge of honor. Most bartenders don't have pretty hands. It's impossible. With all of the hand washing, constant submersion in water and exposure to citrus juice, its enough to leave one's hands extremely dry and cracked on a regular basis.
Some people call it Bar Rot. Some call it Eczema. Some just call it an occupational hazard.
I have tried prescription strength ointments, but nothing works as effective as my all-time favorite OTC treatment: Eucerin's Aquaphor Healing Ointment.
Friday, February 25, 2011
#18: The drunker a customer gets, the more generous the customer gets with their money.
I've worked in a variety of bars over the past 8 years such as nightclubs, college bars, lounges, restaurants, private parties, a strip club and live music venues. Whenever there is alcohol involved, people tend to get more generous the more they drink.
Out of all of the bars I have worked at during my bartending career, I'd never seen money flowing so freely like it did in the strip club. First, you have to pay to get in the door. Once you're inside, you have to pay for drinks. Then you have to pay for the company you keep while enjoying those drinks. When guys came into the strip club, they anticipated on spending some cash. Guys generally weren't there for the food or the beer. They were there to have their egos stroked and for some one-on-one attention with a pretty girl that normally wouldn't give him the time of day outside of the club. Those girls weren't there for fun. They were there to work. Just like the saying goes, "No money, no honey"
I noticed a common trend when I worked behind the bar at the strip club. Guys would come into the club sober. It would take them a few rounds before I could get them to start warming up to me. Once they got enough liquid courage, they would leave the bar and hit the floor looking for company. It wasn't until these guys were comfortable (and loaded up with liquor) that they would show me the love too. What would start off as tipping a dollar a drink would quickly turn into 2 or 3 dollars per drink. If they were sitting with a girl, the tips would increase even more. Who wants to look like a cheapskate in front of a pretty girl in her underwear?
Later on in the evening, I was not only a bartender, but I was also a change machine and a tour guide. Guys would approach the bar needing singles for tipping at the stage. The drunker they were, the more likely that they were to tip me for giving them change. Also, guys would run up to the bar frantically in search of the nearest ATM machine. I was always there to point out the machine or show them in the direction of where they could purchase funny money with their credit card. Once they had cash and approached the bar for another round, they'd tip me extra for all of my help.
Liquor courage in the strip club proved to be quite profitable for me.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Customers come in all different forms, shapes and sizes. I have my typical local customer that comes in every week, wanting to sit in the same spot, order the same drink and order the same meal. I have my business customers who come in anytime they are in town. I have the non-English speaking tourists who are annoying and don't tip well. I have my tourists who are cool and tip very well. I have my regulars. I have people whom I've ever seen before. And then there are the customers who get 86ed.
It takes a lot for a business to "86" a customer. In today's economy, no one can really afford to pick and choose their customers. Customers keep the lights on and the paychecks coming each week. So when a customer gets 86ed from a restaurant/bar, its for good reason.
I have seen a handful of customers get 86ed from the bars I have worked at over the years. There are many reasons why a customer would be 86ed from a bar like refusing to pay their tab, annoying other customers, stalking employees, getting smashed and destroying private property, threatening employees or other customers or using the bar as a public restroom.
We used to have this one customer who would sit at the bar by himself while eating his salad and drinking his beer while listening to headphones. Sure, he was a little odd, but he always seemed to keep to himself and pay his tab. That is until he started having his girlfriend join him at the bar. Whenever these two would come in together, they would always fight and cause a scene. One of the last times these two came into the bar, they not only got into a fight, but the woman stormed out of the restaurant. The guy announced that he would not be paying for the tab. We pointed out to him that he was essentially stealing from the restaurant and that he was not allowed to come back.
When he tried coming back into the restaurant a couple of weeks later, we had to politely remind him that we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. Especially people who publicly skip out on their tab whenever their girlfriends storm out of the restaurant during a fight.
We had another customer who had frequented our bar for far too long. Each time the customer would come in, the entire staff would dread it and avoid her if they could. With each glass of wine she drank, the louder and more obnoxious she would get. Eventually it got to the point where her conversation topics and the volume of her voice were just too inappropriate for our restaurant environment. We had to draw the line when she started inflicting her bad behavior on a poor, unsuspecting couple who was celebrating their anniversary.
Months later this this customer stumbled into our restaurant after hours, saddled up to the bar and couldn't even see straight. Instead of wasting our time explaining to her why her business was no longer welcomed at our bar, we just offered to call her a cab.
Then there was that crackhead who had wandered into our restaurant. It only took her an hour to get 86ed from our restaurant permanently.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits restaurants from refusing service to patrons on the basis of race, color, religion, or natural origin. We do reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who acts like a fool and bothers all of the other paying customers around them.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
#24: It's never a good idea to bring your significant other to a strip club.
95% of the customers who come into a strip club are male. The few female customers who come into a strip club usually come in with their significant other. I understand why couples come into a strip club. Some of them want to rev up their sex life. Others are curious. Let's be honest, what guy wouldn't want to jump all over the chance to watch his girl be smothered by another female? But at what price? I'm not talking about the nominal fee that you have to pay for the attention, but the emotionally charged insecurities that a strip club can bring out of that significant other.
Most of the time whenever couples came into the club, they would be pretty low key. They would either stop by the bar on their way in for a drink or two before finding a table out on the main floor. Some would skip the bar all together and hide in a corner, scouting out all of the girls and build up their liquor courage with each round the cocktail waitresses would bring them.
One couple stood out in particular as being the worse case scenario couple to have ever come into a strip club. When this couple first started their adventure at our club that night, their first stop was the bar.
The woman was clearly uncomfortable. The first thing the woman had told me was that coming into the strip club had not been her idea and that she didn't want to be there. I couldn't blame her. My heart went out to her. Her husband was clearly trying to fulfill some selfish sexual fantasy of his at his wife's expense. She warmed up to me almost instantly, probably because out of all of the girls in the club, I was wearing the most clothes.
As the husband excused himself to the restroom, the woman confided in me that she had never been in a strip club. I made it my mission to make this woman feel as comfortable as possible. I quickly assisted my cocktail waitresses and random customers that were ordering drinks at the bar while I still maintained my full attention on my conversation with this woman. I quickly gained her trust as I gave her the "ins" and "outs" of the club. I gave her a full layout of the land. I pointed out where things were in the club like the dj booth, restrooms and champagne rooms. I even made a point to show her the entertainers who I thought were cool and "girl friendly."
When her husband finally came back to join us at the bar, I could tell that the restroom hadn't been his only stop. Apparently he had made a few friends along the way and had been doing a little scouting for him and his wife. He started a tab with me and told me that for each round he ordered, he wanted his drink to be a double and to go light on the alcohol for his lady. I didn't really understand where he was going with his request, but I obliged. I decided to make a mental note to keep a close eye on the couple. I had a strange feeling about these two.
The first couple of rounds the husband and wife had at the bar seemed pretty harmless. One by one, the entertainers made their introductions to the couple. With each girl that came by, the wife would turn around to me and seek my approval. I gave her a wink for the girls I thought were cool and a little shrug for the girls I thought she should steer clear of. She appreciated my nonverbal clues and gave me a secret thumbs up for when she agreed with my taste.
Eventually one of the girls whom I had given the woman a wink about made her way into the champagne room with the couple. The hour they spent in the champagne room went by without a hitch. Once their time was up, the couple and their entertainer of choice emerged from the champagne room with smiles on their faces and saddled up at the bar together. It was clear that the wife no longer felt insecure or uncomfortable even though she was amongst girls half her age, running around in their underwear.
It wasn't until half way through the couple's next round at the bar that things started to take a turn for the worse. While the woman had been involved in a conversation with the entertainer who had joined the couple in the champagne room, her husband had managed to strike up a conversation with another entertainer. As soon as the wife realized that her husband was talking to another woman, something inside her snapped. She got up from the bar abruptly and stormed off to the restroom. The entertainer who had been talking to her followed her into the restroom to make sure she was okay.
The husband remained at the bar, unfazed that his wife was upset with the fact that he was talking with another woman. It wasn't until the man had decided that he wanted to go back into the champagne room with his new friend that he noticed his wife was no longer at the bar.
For the next two hours, I had to watch the wife trying to be coaxed out of the restroom in tears by a group of entertainers while her husband told me how crazy his wife was. According to the husband, it was the alcohol that made his wife crazy and insecure, never mind the wife's the realization that her husband loved spending time in strip clubs on a regular basis without her. Ouch!
I felt sorry for the wife. The first thing she had told me when the two of them had come in that night was how she didn't want to be in the strip club in the first place. It was obvious that she was insecure. She knew deep down inside that her husband frequented strip clubs. His insistence of her being in the club with him that night only solidified that insecurity. She could only play along for so long before the alcohol kicked in and her insecurities came rushing out.
Do yourself a favor. If your significant other tells you that they don't want to go to a strip club because it makes them feel uncomfortable, don't take that as an opportunity to get her drunk and force her to live out your girl-on-girl fantasy. Nothing says buzz kill like having the girls who are suppose to be creating a sexy fantasy for you, trying to calm down your girl who can't stop crying in the restroom.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Cool things come from San Francisco such as the Golden Gate bridge, Cable Cars, Anchor Steam beer, Twitter and Drink Me Magazine.
Drink Me Magazine is a local print magazine that features 64-full color, glossy pages of San Francisco's bar and drinking culture every other month. The magazine is distributed FREE to its readers all over the city in local watering holes, liquor stores and at alcohol-related events.
This March will mark Drink Me Magazine's second year in print. Quite impressive especially since print publications seem to be a dying breed with everything going online lately.
Drink Me Magazine has no plans to slow down their growth spurt. Since they started publishing the magazine almost two years ago, the pages have doubled. The magazine is now up to 12 published issues. They just revamped their entire website and relaunched it this week. There is also word that the magazine is expanding to include New York in the near future.
Like I said, cool things come from San Francisco.
Be sure to check out the interview I did with Daniel Yaffe, the editor and publisher of Drink Me Magazine on my National Bartender page.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I can't help it. I'm human. In the back of my mind, I always try to figure out the background story of the customers who sit at my bar. Who are they? Why are they here together? How do they know each other? I blame it on my minor in Sociology. I always want to know why people are the people they are and why they do the things they do.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I am going out of my way to hear what the customers at my bar are saying to one another. I am fortunate enough to work behind a very small, intimate bar and have the opportunity of hearing everything that is discussed. Nine times out of ten, I am not even really listening because I am too busy making drinks and having conversations in my own head. Most of the time, I hear bits and pieces of a story or the tail end of a punch line. But every now and then, I can't help but tune in.
A couple of years ago, I had a couple come into the bar to have dinner. At first, I thought they were just friends. They weren't being the least bit romantic with one another. I could tell that they worked with each other because they were discussing day-to-day activities at the office and talking about various co-workers.
Once I opened a bottle of wine for these two, their conversation got very interesting. From what I could gather, they not only worked together, but the man was the woman's boss and they were having an affair. They were in the middle of discussing the man's wife and his kids. It sounded like they were planning on coming clean with their affair with his wife. The tricky part was not only did the man have kids, but the wife was a friend of the woman sitting at the bar.
Awkward. Not exactly restaurant dinner conversation. This certainly wasn't a conversation appropriate to have at such a small bar either. It's not like I could go anywhere else. I was there working, making drinks for the servers in the restaurant. The couple had come in at the later part of the evening. These two were the only people sitting at the bar. I was within arm's reach of them for their entire conversation. I guess they either didn't care or didn't realize that I was stuck having to listen to their soap opera life.
As if the situation couldn't get anymore uncomfortable or worse, the conversation switched from how the man was going to leave his wife to how he needed to check himself into rehab for his drinking and drug use. By this point of the conversation, our restaurant had already been officially closed for 45 minutes. These two were the only people in the restaurant, besides the closing staff. I was cleaning and closing up the bar around them. Apparently, they were too wrapped up in their conversation to realize that we had closed.
I eventually ran out of things to clean while waiting for these two to finish up. Up until this point, I had been escaping to the kitchen to fill in the closing server on what was going on with the outrageous and unassuming couple sitting at the bar. Now that the closing server was going home, I had no one else to share the crazy experience with.
Finally the couple finished their bottle of wine, took a look around and asked me if they were the only ones left in the restaurant. I smiled and said yes. When they asked me if we were closed, I smiled again and told them that we had been closed for an hour and a half. They looked at each other and their watches. Finally they had stopped talking to each other long enough for me to drop their check.
They didn't tip anything spectacular. At least not enough to make it worth my while to keep me long after closing and for having to hear all about their personal lives. They certainly did earn the title as the "Oddest Couple" to have ever sat at my bar.
***And wouldn't you know it, this same couple came back into my bar a year later. This time, the woman was pregnant and wearing a wedding ring.
Friday, February 4, 2011
#2: Two lime garnishes = no alcohol
This rule isn't so much for the customers. It's more like an unspoken rule between the staff such as the dancer, the cocktail waitress and the bartender. It's the easiest way for a dancer to communicate to the bar that she doesn't want alcohol in her drink without letting her paying customer know.
Why would a dancer not want her paying customer to know that she doesn't want to drink alcohol? Its the same idea as when a customer wants to buy the bartender a shot. If a bartender accepted shots from every customer who offered, it's highly unlikely that the bartender would be able to finish out their shift on their own two feet. Trust me, I've tried. Even in my prime time of drinking behind the bar while bartending, I was always more careless and sloppy when I drank with my customers than if I was sober. So could you imagine if a dancer drank with every customer she sat with in a given night? The poor girl would be stumbling around the club and crawling onstage, slurring her speech in her underwear and plastic high heels.
Now that I bartend in a restaurant, I just tell my customers that it is against company policy for me to drink on the clock. I thank them profusely for the offer and then blame the no-drinking policy on the bosses. If the customer pushes back, I say something along the lines of "Hey, you don't want me to lose my job, do you?" while flashing them a big, fat smile. That usually does the trick and they stop trying to make me feel guilty for not accepting their drink offer.
Working in a strip club or any kind of nightclub environment for that matter, it's not as easy to turn down a customer who REALLY wants their dancer, cocktail waitress or bartender to drink with them. It's a loud, party environment. If a customer wants to buy a staff member a drink and the staff member turns them down, they will take it personal. Money talks in a strip club. The customer will take their money to someone who WILL drink with them. Trust me, I've seen it a million times. Drunk people are not rational, remember?
So here come in the two limes...
If a dancer doesn't feel like drinking or if she legally can't drink (she's not quite 21), the easiest way to not turn off her drinking customer is to order a drink and request it with two limes, along with a little wink. That way the customer THINKS she's really drinking with him and she doesn't have to worry about getting wasted or breaking any rules.
For us bartenders, it's easy for us to get out of a drinking situation in a dark environment like a strip club or nightclub. A splash of Sprite, Coke or a mixture of juice make for great, fake cocktails. Customers never know unless they reach for the glass and take a sip. ;)
Thursday, January 20, 2011
#15: You don't always get what you pay for in a strip club.
In strip clubs, customers believe that they get what they pay for. The more expensive the dancer, the better she'll be. The more expensive the alcohol, the classier it is.
I'm here to tell you that it's a big, fat MYTH. You do not get what you pay for in a strip club. In fact, the more you spend on something in a strip club, the bigger a loser you are. You better believe that the entire staff is watching you and snickering behind your back.
It would always crack me up when young guys (just barely past legal drinking age) would come into the club and make a big deal about ordering chilled shots of anything ("Goose", Patron, Belevedere) with pineapple backs, "Henney" and cokes or request Hennessey mixed with apple juice. Seriously? Take the bottle out of your mouth. We don't even carry apple juice. No legit bar does.
Real drinkers understand that top shelf alcohol (the expensive stuff that is so good, it has to sit on the back shelf of a bar and not in the well) is meant to be enjoyed on its own. It's not made to shoot back. It's not made to mix with soda, juice or any type of mixer. It's really not even meant to muddle with fresh fruit.
Bartending in a strip club, I recognized my place. I wasn't there to educate my clueless customers. I was there to sell drinks. My sole purpose was to make money for the club and fill my tip jar. There were plenty of times during a shift when all of us bartenders would share plenty of rolled eyes and "You're never going to believe what this asshole did..." type of stories. This is part of the reason why bartending in a strip club was the easiest type of bartending I had ever done. Certainly not the proudest moments of my bartending career, but it paid the bills and was a lot of fun.
Monday, January 17, 2011
#30: Every strip club needs a bar.
Let's face it. Strip clubs ooze sex. They are filled with desire and hope. Customers desire the attention of the dancers. The dancers hope the customers will give them money for their time and attention. Bartenders hope to make a drink and tips off any customer that comes to their bar, whether it be an actual customer or a dancer.
It's rare that a customer will patronize a strip club without having some sort of alcohol in his system. When a customer comes into a strip club, the first place he usually stops at (besides the ATM machine right outside the club) is the bar. It's a transition for the customer. He is mentally adapting from the outside world to the inside of his carnal desires. The bar gives the customer a chance to take a breath, relax and form some sort of game plan in his head before venturing out to the floor filled with plastic shoes, glitter and g-strings.
Bars are the social epicenter in any strip club. Dancers use the bar to seek out potential customers. Dancers can smell money all the way from the dressing room. Dancers know that all the fresh meat in the place (the guys who still have cash in their pocket) will be sitting at the bar. Customers might think they are the only ones who are sizing up the inventory. Little do they know, the dancer has already decided on which guy at the bar has the most money. This assessment will determine which guy she will introduce herself to first.
Throwing a bartender in the mix acts as a buffer for both the customer and the dancer. The bartender acts as the middleman, the innocent party if you will. While the customer and dancer are busy sizing each other up, the bartender is busy lubricating the newly acquainted couple with alcohol. The customer knows that the odds are in his favor. His wallet can have any girl he desires in the strip club. But he knows that the one girl he doesn't stand a chance of being able to have an intimate, one-on-one interaction with is the female bartender. If the female bartender plays her cards right by flashing a few smiles and having a friendly chat with the customer, the customer's desire is more likely to leave her a bigger tip.
A strip club is a social circus where the traditional roles are reversed. Men come inside for the attention and become the prey for the women who come inside for the money (and sometimes attention). When you add alcohol to the mix, everything gets a little easier for everyone involved. The customer relaxes. The dancers generally make more money. The bartender walks away with a healthy tip bucket. It's one of the only triangles where everyone involved walks away a winner.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
There are two things that really drive me crazy whenever I am working behind the bar:
1. People who try to come in before we're open for business
I spend the hour before we open up for business setting up the bar. I cut fruit. I stock fresh garnishes. I bring out the mixers. I fill my well with ice. I stock up my juices. I make espresso drinks for the kitchen. I make fruit punch drinks for the runners. I count my drawer. I use this hour to not only physically prepare my bar for the evening, but I prepare myself mentally for the night as well.
It irritates me to no end when we get customers who come in before we open and demand a drink. Are you kidding me? If I take the time to serve you before I have a chance to set up my bar, I risk falling behind for the rest of the night. It might not be such a big deal on a slower night. If its a busy night, your stupid drink might set me back so far that I never quite get the chance to get caught up for the rest of the night. No one wants to start off their night already being behind. The bar and restaurant industry appreciates the business it receives from its customers. Please try to patronize the business during its set business hours. There's a reason why we open at 5 and not 4:30.
2. People who try to come in 5-10 minutes before closing
Slow nights suck. Slow nights are painful because the time drags by as you watch the clock and then watch the door, hoping and waiting for customers to come in. Now picture this. You've just spent the last 5-6 hours watching the clock tick by. You had a couple of customers here and there, but no one has come in over the last hour. Since closing time is officially less than 20 minutes away, you start to close down the bar because there's no one there. You've just tossed out the rest of your lemons, limes and fruit garnishes when the door opens and a customer walks in. Are you serious? There's no one in the bar or restaurant and it's now five minutes to closing. That sucks.
It's painful to keep a kitchen open long after closing for the one person who decides to come in right before closing. That means the kitchen staff, server, bartender and manager on duty all have to wait patiently and watch (in vain) as the customer enjoys their meal because none of us can go home until the customer does.
The next time you dine out, please reconsider when you walk into a bar or restaurant before opening or near closing and don't expect to be welcomed with open arms. Chances are if you were in the restaurant/bar staff's shoes, you would be just as annoyed if either one of these scenarios happened to you.
And don't even get me started on the customers who sit and chat at their table well past closing time.
If you ever find yourself in the position where you just can't resist patronizing a business outside of it's designated business hours, make it worth the staff's while by being a generous tipper.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Just in case you missed it my dearest readers. Here is my article that was published in Drink Me Magazine last year featuring one of my all-time, personal favorite cocktails, the Bloody Mary.
I was just Googling myself and found this article which was posted in Issue Six of the magazine back in February 2010. I almost forgot I had written it. I sure did have a ton of fun doing the research for the article.
Drink Me Magazine: Something About Mary by Kathleen Neves (aka Cielo Gold)
Saturday, January 8, 2011
"What would you like to drink?"
This is how I typically start every single one of my bar transactions with a customer.
Every now and then I get a customer who responds to my question, "Well, what's good?"
It's fine. I get it. People like this are trying hard to be funny in front of their friends. If it's slow enough at the bar, I might humor the customer and ask them what types of drinks they normally drink or what spirit they would like their cocktail to be based on. But in most of my experiences, the wisecracking customer always seems to ask this question at the wrong time...when I am knee deep in drink orders from servers and have a packed house at the bar. I'm talking standing room only. It's at times like these when all I can say in response to the customer is "Well, EVERYTHING is good", just as I take the drink order of the person standing next to the wise guy.
That's right. People who try to be funny when a bartender is busy generally get skipped. It's not that we are trying to be rude. We are just trying to be efficient. If not only for the tip jar, but for the bar.
When a bar is busy and there is only one bartender taking the drink orders and making the drinks, there isn't a whole lot of time to have a discussion about what "good" drink a customer should have. If a bartender does stop in the middle of a rush to have this type of conversation, you better believe the rest of the bar will be watching angrily and slapping their fists full of cash on the bar.
Do yourself a favor potentially wisecracking customer. Be mindful of the bar and save your funny comments and responses for the slower portions of the evening. Trust me, you will be better off annoying the poor bartender who has to pretend to laugh and strain to find humor in your comments than having to deal with the wrath of countless thirsty bar patrons who already know what's "good" and are ready to order.
Friday, January 7, 2011
It was just brought to my attention yesterday that my Cielo Gold: San Francisco Bartender blog was featured by College Crunch as one of the 50 Best Blogs for the Home Bartender, specifically under The Bartending Experience section.
I know I haven't been active updating my blog this past year, but it always brightens my day when people discover my blog and love it. If that isn't inspiration to make this blog active again, I don't know what is.
Speaking of active, look at who finally posted something on her National Bartender Examiner page yesterday:
Kara Newman finds the balance in creating a spicy cocktail
*Kara Newman is the author of Spice & Ice: 60-Tongue Tingling Cocktails, an awesome book featuring hot, spicy and perfectly balanced cocktails categorized by the seasons. All of the recipes feature, fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Even though I am still in the midst of switching careers/industries, I still manage to find the time to work two nights a week behind the bar. Here's to plenty more bar stories and drink recipes in the near future.
Happy New Year 2011 everyone!