Shoutout to all you bartenders out there. You’ve got a doozy of a job some days, and it can be wildly thankless and stressful, but your level of responsibility is no joke. Maybe you took your ABC class a while ago, maybe you’re enrolling in classes now or getting a license soon. Either way, the advice ahead is universal.
You know the gig. When bartenders are on a shift, they can go 10 to 12 hours straight, sometimes without taking a break. Getting tired is a fact of the industry, but getting lazy is not. You’re the kings and queens who hold the keys to the castle from behind the bar and have an obligation to look out for the contentment, safety, and health of masses that flood you with incessant requests for service. The ultimate service industry balancing act. We have some simple mantras that’ll keep you keen back there. Some you may learn in ABC class, others are from years in the trenches, and you’re bound to come across some of your own as you go forward, but all of them are excellent to keep in mind and practice.
Awareness is key
Barring extreme circumstances, being aware of what’s going on in your bar will help you avoid issues before they actually become issues. The bartender on their phone can’t possibly serve people, let alone see if there are situations developing that require immediate or impending attention. Heads up, phones down, you’re vigilant; you surely don’t want to be in the position of not knowing what’s going on if something happens in your domain.
Time is your ally
The only thing that cures drunk is time. Not coffee, not food, not some ill-contrived internet hack or pill, just time. Awareness plays into this because you can’t know a patron’s intake level and consumption timeframe unless you’re paying attention whilst serving. Bartenders can get in a lot of trouble if they aren’t focused here. They’re at your bar, they’re asking you for beverages, not serving themselves. As much as it’s your responsibility to be aware of them, it’s your responsibility to be aware of yourself. Take care to not overserve and make sure everyone has a water in front of them, regardless of whether or not they drink it (it’s just good form).
If you must, be the enemy
They’ll teach this in ABC class, but you won’t feel how difficult it is until you’re put in the position of being the enemy. There comes a point in every bartender’s career that they have to stop serving someone, ask someone to leave, or send them home. Naturally, 99% of the time, this doesn’t go over well with the person being given the boot. It’s not fun being the bad guy/girl in that instance, but we guarantee it’s for the best. You’re looking out for their safety, plus, in the end, they’ll end up returning and thanking you most times. Being the enemy from time to time saves the customer, the establishment, and you.
Bartending is one of the most interesting jobs in existence. You cultivate your own social microcosm immersed in a rich tapestry of human interaction and exchange, just add alcohol. That can make things a bit more combustible, but that’s part of the fun. So long as safety, awareness, and responsibility are entering into your process behind the bar, you’re well on your way to making the best bar environment possible.