Bartending as a Profession

In 1988, Tom Cruise starred in the movie, "Cocktail". It changed the way the world viewed bartenders. Flair bartending became the rage. Although it has been practiced for years, bottle flipping was suddenly the cool way to tend bar. Though showmanship is fun to watch, the main purpose of tending bar is to make drinks. No one wants to wait for a drink. 

The bartending schools on the radio advertise that they can offer you job placement, as you enter the world of fun, friendship, glitz, & money. Well, you can make some great friends, it is fun sometimes and the money is there on good nights. This is all true and it is a profession like any trade you can fall back on. There is a bit more to it, however. 

It can be grueling work. You are on your feet for long stretches of time, breaks are non existent, food is always eaten cold and you are expected to always be in a great mood, and quick with a joke. Lending a sympathetic ear, cleaning up the orange rinds, ripped up napkins, even used tissues, and wiping ashtrays and the surrounding area are just a few minor duties. Closing time is a welcome time, but then you have to clean up the bar and restock for the next shift. 

Not everyone has the personality and stamina to bartend. Here are a few key things you must be willing to handle. 

  • You must like 99% of all people. 
  • Be willing to put up with patrons at their worst. 
  • Listen to the same joke over and over and still laugh. 
  • Keep secrets. Patrons don't always come in with their significant other. 
  • Clean up all the messes your customers create. 
  • Be quick and stand on your feet for extended periods of time without complaining. 
  • Be making three drinks while you are preparing for five more at the same time. 
  • Be able to tactfully shut someone off.

    Long hours of hard work coupled with the responsibility of serving alcohol can be a tremendous burden. Most people "know when to say when", but there are quite a few that just won't give up. As a responsible server, you have to tactfully shut them off, and make positively sure they are not driving. The most haunting fear is that someone you've served is going to get into a wreck and hurt or kill someone. Recognizing that a person is inebriatedisn't always easy. Laws vary from state to state, but the liability doesn't just rest on the person drinking. No matter where a person was drinking, the last place and/or person to serve him may be liable for damages he may inflict. Being certified in a quality responsible service training program can prevent some of the problems that result from the misuse of alcohol. Some states require certification before hiring. One of the best certification programs is the TIPS program (Training for Intervention Procedures). 

    On the other hand, I've made lifelong friends and have had some great times. The money is generally good, but I've found the busier I am, the less I make compared to gross sales. On busy nights you don't have as much time to pay attention to your customers. Keeping sometimes twenty orders at a time straight in your head puts you in the "head down, stay out of my way" mode. Thank heavens for your regulars. These are your meat and potato people who you know quite well. If you were having a party, they'd be on the list. Without these people, your life as a bartender would be that much harder. They can help you entertain and run interference. They are what make it all worth while!