Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bartender Insider (When To Cut People Off)

I'm bartending at 8 PM on Saturday night at my new gig. The restaurant is pretty packed and the bar is doing a huge chunk of business. There are three of us behind the bar and in this instance that's a good thing because there is plenty to be done between serving customers, attending the service bar, pre-muddling mojitos and keeping the bar clean.

I'm stationed on a huge corner of the bar where most of the bar patrons are congregated. Directly on the corner sits a younger (27?) group of two guys and one girl. They've been at the bar since 6 PM and other than sending a bottle of wine back, they've been a pleasant group and I've had a few conversations with them as I made drinks. (The girl in the group asked me if I was straight, which isn't an uncommon question to me. I guess being trim, good-looking and having spiky hair can send mixed signals. If she only knew... )

One of the guys is dressed in a very modern, clearly expensive t-shirt, has multiple tat's on his arms and his hair is blonde and spiky. His first drink order was a Ketel One Martini. I've come to the conclusion that he's a pretty cool kid (Although now it's clear that he was probably gay and got his girlfriend to ask me if I was gay for his sake).

The group continues to drink (although not very heavily, I thought). I'm not monitoring their drinking because they really haven't done anything to warrant it. At some point one of the guys and the girl get up and go to the upstairs bar. The blonde spiky haired guy asks for the check, and he's slurring his words a bit (warning sign #1). The check comes to 135$ and he tips 35$ on top of that, but looking at the check I can see that his writing is clearly affected and I can barely make out the numbers or his signature (warning sign #2).

The guy begins chatting up two girls nearby who I'm friendly with, and he still seems okay, just a little drunk. The girls are smiling and they don't seem to mind and I don't think twice about it. About 10 minutes later he spills his drink on the bar, getting one of the girls purses wet (warning sign #3). The girls don't seem upset and I wipe up the mess and even give one of the girls a beer on the house. I still didn't feel like this guy was a "problem customer" and I wasn't ready to give this guy the boot. He just spent 170 $ and I felt like he deserved a break. I set him up with a water after that and refused to serve him when he asked for another drink. He's cut off. I should've called a cab or found his friends and politely made him leave right then. I didn't...

10 minutes later and he is clearly intoxicated. He's hitting the vodka wall and he begins intermittantly putting his head on the bar. I alert the other bartenders and let them know not to serve the guy. It's busy and I keep working.

Another 10 minutes and he is passed out on the bar. I move quickly around the bar and my manager meets me there. My manager can't wake him up and he's about to go get two of our huge cooks to carry him out. I pick him up by putting my hands under his armpits and picking him up out of the chair. He begins to wake up and he tries to shake me off. I hold onto him and put my arm around his shoulders, at the same time I pick up his cell phone and wallet. I physically support him and carry him through the packed restaurant, trying not to let him bump into anyones table. At this point the restaurant is super-packed and this is a very difficult task . People start to gawk and stare.

He tries to come back in the restaurant a few minutes later but my manager bum rushes him out the front door. He ends up passing out in the outdoor farmers market across the street and it seems like the entire restaurant is looking out of our huge open-air garage doors that we have on the front of the restaurant. I grab the barback and tell him to find this guy's two friends at any cost, then I dash back out and get this guy away from the restaurant. Eventually his friends come find him and take him home.

My bar manager scolded me for "over-serving" this guy. I don't think I'm completely in the wrong here, but clearly if there is anyone to blame (other than the drunken idiot), it would be me.

Making money and being a fast bartender is one thing, but serving alcohol responsibly is something I need to focus more on. I guess I just don't take people's limits into consideration all the time, because when I drink, there are no limits. I need to remember that most people aren't 6'4, 195 and most people don't drink like Picasso on a 4 day Absinthe bender.

I expect these types of situations at the college bar I work at, but not at my new gig; An upscale, place to be seen type of restaurant...on my 5th fucking shift. You live and you learn.
"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."
-George Bernard Shaw


Benedict Smith said...

sadly, not everyone can just drink with no limits and hold it until they get to a cab or their buddy escorts them out...but sometimes, the wall really does just hit all at once. not to me, but i've seen it happen :)

Bookstore Piet said...

This is why I rarely go out drinking (or even eating dinner) on Friday or Saturdays not to mention the drinking holidays like St Patrick's or Cinqo. Too many amateurs.

Dan Durazo said...

I worked in a very popular campus bar for three years working my way through the University of Maryland and I saw it all. One night I was carrying out a belligerent customer and had him in a bear hug but I only got one arm. He's got a hold of my face with his free hand and he's checking my pain threshold. Fortunately back then, I was a total stud and could carry a keg of beer by myself, so this guy didn't have a chance. I had to jump over the bar numerous times to stop altercations that were brewing and each time just the sight of me flying over the bar was enough to stop the evil doers.

But what still haunts me today is the people who would pass out on the bar, sometimes in the middle of the day. These folks were problem drinkers and I'm sorry if I contributed to their problem and I wish them well. But I did have a very witty axiom I'd bust out in such situations: "Hey! I don't drink in your bed, so don't sleep on my bar!"

Jack Goes Forth said...

Dan- I wish I had enough presence to stop people before shit went down, unfortunately this isn't always the case.

U of M? What bar? I've hit the bar scene there a few times when I lived in DC, 8 months ago.

Benedict- I know very few people who have my tolerance. Beer is one thing, but a man who can handle his liquor... well, thats a true drinker.

But lets be honest, bragging about one's drinking prowess is a lame move.

Anonymous said...

Where's Gram Parsons (God's Own Drunk) now that we need him?

Anonymous said...

OO this post gave your new bar away.

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AS said...

Good quote to close it.