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Holiday Hick-ups

When I came to work at 9pm, the bar was humming. The club was about 75% full and the staff was ready for the impending rush of customers. I was working the East Bar tonight with Becky, Zach and Farley. Our stations were stocked, the fruit was cut and the buzz of the holiday spirit was in the air. I was working the Rock Star shift. This job is the bartender who comes in at 9 and leaves at midnight. Essentially, it is just another set of hands for the busiest three hours of the night. It is a run and gun shift. Knock out as many drinks as possible and fill the tip bucket as quickly as you can.

In a word: my kind of night.

It was so much different than it was the night before. On Friday, we were one of the stops for the Santa Pub Crawl in SLC. For bar people, this is nothing but a bunch of dollar signs walking into the club. For children under the age of 5, it is their personal nightmare. 300 plus drunks dressed as Santa Claus slamming shots of whiskey, pints of Blue Moon and screaming like entitled children wondering why they are not getting special service in a sea of cheaply dressed holiday costumes. Imagine Dan Aykoyd in “Trading Places” when he robbed Duke & Duke — only more whacked out on PCP. On Friday, I had to check my list (twice) and determined that everybody had been naughty. We put Santa and his little elves in a choke-hold and got through the night by humoring the pants off of every customer dumb enough to wear a flammable costume from Walmart.

Saturday was different. The people who came into the club tonight were here to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Moreover, they only had one thing in mind: to get blasted. It doesn’t happen very often but every now and then I can actually look at the crowd of customers and determine that every single one of them came into the bar with an agenda. Be it holiday spirit, Christmas bonus checks or functioning alcoholism, they came to Keys on Main to get wasted.

I’m not here to judge. I’m an umpire. I am only here to call balls and strikes. If you walk into my bar with money and a plan, it is my job to help get you to where you want to go. I’m you’re tour guide, best friend and worst enemy.

The drink of the night was Jager-Bombs. I don’t like them. Jagermeister taste too much like medicine and Red Bull causes your testicles to shrink. Nevertheless, I poured Jager-Bombs like they were going out of style. The problem with drinking too many of them is that you become a functioning lunatic. You don’t remember your tab, your shirt is stained with tears and spittle and you become legal deaf. I lost my voice tonight screaming at customers begging them to tell me their name so I can ring up their tab. If I sound like I am complaining, I am not. I am just glad my girlfriend isn’t in the middle of the insanity tonight.

I rocked my way through three hours of craziness. With everybody wearing their best holiday outfit, drinking a bootful of Patron, throwing up in multiple urinals and behaving like Pinocchio on the Pleasure Island, I slowly watched the clock grind down to midnight. Working around Becky and Farley, I was able to sling as many cocktails as humanly possible for three hours.

There were some unhappy customers but these people were the ones who came to bar expecting personalized service. I’m a gunslinger taking down as many Bad Barts as possible. Most of the frowns I saw tonight were from 22 year old girls trying whiskey for the first time. Believe me, I’m glad when I started drinking whiskey YouTube wasn’t around.

In the end, I was able to leave at a good hour. I got a couple of beers and a shot of tequila. I am very fortunate to work with some really good people and pour drinks for some pretty good folks. I love the hustle of the business and working at Keys on Main is a great place for me. I never forget that working as a professional bartender in Salt Lake is a privilege.

Culturally, it is very hard to make your papers in SLC pouring drinks. Yet, I have been very fortunate to make a decent living in Utah making AMFs, pouring rivers worth of Bud Light and making the occasional muddled Old Fashion. Even though we are coming up on Christmas, I’d like to give my thanksgiving to my employers, co-workers and customers. You’ve made 2010 very special for me. You’ve allowed me to get back to my roots as a bartender and remind me why I love making cocktails.

At the end of my shift, I had a draft beer with a friend at the club. As we’re talking about our night, I instantaneously felt the difference of being on the other side of the bar. While I like talking with my friend, John, there is a comfort being on the other side of the bar. My take away from tonight is that bartending is a very specialized trade — no different than welding. Well, tonight, I felt like I built the Eiffel Tower.

I want to wish everybody a very happy holiday season. Thank you for spending time with me and allowing me to participate in your nightlife. I never forget that you have a fair amount of choices when selecting your bar when you go out at night. I guarantee I will always try and make your night as fun and enjoyable as possible. I know we’re not the cheapest place in town but hopefully I make it worth your time.

Be safe. Watch for deer. If you can’t be safe, be sanitary.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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