Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do You Suffer From Dry, Cracked Hands?

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

Things I've Learned Bartending in a Strip Club #18

#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

We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone

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

Things I've Learned Bartending in a Strip Club #24

#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

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

The Odd Couple

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

Things I've Learned Bartending in a Strip Club #2

#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. ;)