Adventures in Bartending

I spent a few years bartending while I was in college. The lessons I learned went something like this:

1. The best bouncers aren’t mean and angry; they are calm and rational, and know how to diffuse a tense situation.
Some of the sweetest guys are bouncers! They spend a lot of time making sure the people in their charge are safe. If you’re ever in a bad situation (say, getting hit on mercilessly by some drunk dude) in a bar, hang out with the bouncer.

2. Your regulars have your back.
Let me explain this one a little bit: Smaller bars don’t always have bouncers, and a bartender that finds herself alone needs to have people at her back (yeah… I’m going to use “her”, but because I’m lazy, not sexist). If your customers know and love you, they will protect you from the weird guy who stumbles in and acts scary and dangerous. Regulars can be a better shield than bouncers; they protect you out of love and loyalty— although, to be fair, I’ve worked with some amazingly loyal bouncers.

3. Don’t overserve… EVER.
Sometimes industry folks are the biggest partiers, and no one wants to cut off a friend. Cutting anyone off makes you feel lame, but if it’s a friend it’s even harder. A coworker in Eugene died because he was overserved and got into an accident afterword. I didn’t serve him that night, but it could just as easily have been me, had I been working that night. It was a very hard lesson.

4. Be friendly, but not too friendly.
If you ever want tips, be nice. Be human. Be patient and compassionate. Just be careful not to involve yourself too much in people’s personal business. It’s a fine line to walk, but you really don’t want to get sucked into some bullshit drama. Remember lesson number two, though… if you want your regulars to have your back, be someone they can count on.

So there you have it… some lessons you’ll probably never have the occasion to use. You’re welcome!

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Sara Quinn

Sara Quinn

Although she began college life as an art major, Sara was quickly sucked into the whirly depths of psychology. She spent a few years working as an educator and eventually became a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.Now she gets to make stuff for a living, which suits her fine.Sara co-owns Squid&Crow, and lives in Pasco with Brendan and Lila. She happily spends hours composing, coloring, and texturing (when she’s not geeking out on comic books and video games).

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  • Becca Lingley

    This is great – takes me back to my server days. The live lessons you learn in the food and hospitality industry are invaluable.

  • Suzy Garza Higley

    I may not have use for it, but it was interesting all the same ;).

  • I got my bartender’s license not too long ago for a friend’s 10 year reunion. There was a gal there I caught stealing bottles of wine from behind the counter when I had stepped away for a break. She was belligerent and had also been drinking her friends drinks. I had to turn her away and get cussed at but I know it was the right thing to do. I wish I had done it earlier in the night.

    Again, you’re writing is so wonderful to read.