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Bar Life, Utah

Put Them In A Chokehold

There is no man more dangerous with a company’s corporate credit card than me.

Hand over that corporate American Express and I guarantee I will draw a bead on every one of your customers and pull the trigger. Well vodka and tonics become double Grey Goose with a hit of tonic. Every scotch and soda gets upgraded to Macallan and the cheapest beer I open is a $5 Stella Artois. Members of your party will be pressured to order rounds of shots for the bar and there is no such thing as a last call.

I make it my mission to get that check as big as possible and make sure that everyone of your guests has the time of their life. In return, you will be signing for a check bigger than you thought and tipping more than you are probably comfortable with. It’s a fair trade. You didn’t hand that corporate card to give accounting on Monday a meager bill. You came to the club to entertain guests and I make it incredibly easy to prove that you did your job.

It takes a confidence to look your guest at the end of the night and tell them thank you for a great evening when plopping down a tab that usually equates to a family of four’s mortgage payment. Never back away. Always make strong eye contact and shake the guest’s hand thanking them for their business. It takes huevos to calmly point out the standard 18% gratuity and tell them that it is completely acceptable, in fact, encouraged to tip more.

It’s moments like this that I love my job.

The surprising thing about open bar tabs at company credit card events is how many complaints I get from people. The unwritten rule with out-of-towners drinking on somebody else’s tab is that they are the worst complainers about Utah’s liquor laws. If I was a member of anyone of the numerous corporate events we host at Keys On Main, the first thing I would do would be to find the bartender that most looks like me and hammer him for as many drinks as I could in the allotted time the open bar tab was open. I wouldn’t waste a moment insulting the host city and ask what kind of real drinks you have.

How is it when people come into Salt Lake with a poor preconceived notion of the state’s consumption laws and leave the club in a wheelbarrow? I think folks fail to realize that you can in fact get drunk on 3.2% beer but they choose to double-down on their intake leaving them pissing their pants and swinging at the fences.

I’d like to think that I was raised with a molecule of manners and I can’t imagine going to, I don’t know, Little Rock Arkansas and spend the first 35-seconds I am at a new club browbeating the bartender that they don’t carry Uinta’s Cutthroat. For the record, Cutthroat is a fine beer and I have drank at least a water buffalo worth of the pale ale but when I am on the road, I want to try the local flavor. I want to try and fit in and definetly not piss off the locals. We don’t get this respect here in the Beehive State. People think our beer is watered down, we short pour everything and consider booze to be the devil’s liquor.

It goes without saying that the average tourist is a fucking idiot.

I don’t travel anywhere without looking into the local charms of a city. Figure out the rules before you hit the road and you’ll have a rich, cultural experience. Act like you’re the king of the d-bag capital and you’ll be crowned the punk of the evening. Salt Lake is treated like a special needs kid in the night club rankings throughout the country. Maybe the rest of the city doesn’t know the first thing about taking care of out-of-towners but I definitely know how to put them into a chokehold. I can get you drunk enough to think that “Summer Lovin’” is a great song and you’re husband looks like Danny Zuko. I can also slow-pour you to soberity. Feeling lucky, punk?

I honestly don’t really remember why I moved to Salt Lake City but I am certain of why I have stayed. I love ¾ of the weather we have in the state, I love the friends that I’ve met but most importantly, I love the family I’ve made here in SLC. We’ve created a life for ourselves that is rich and rewarding. I didn’t move here for the politics, the winters, piss-poor drivers, reliance on fry sauce to improve any meal or Seagull Bookstores. I am the worst booster for the state: I fell into Salt Lake City and have decided that I am never leaving. I never thought that SLC would become home but now that it is, I spend a way to large of my energies defending her and telling out-of-towners to watch their tongue when they start bad-mouthing the state.

I think the success I have with corporate credit cards is that the host never thinks they are going to encounter a guy like me behind the bar when they hand over that AMEX beauty. They probably expect some hayseed that needs to check the Boston’s Bartender Guide when they order a gin and tonic. Go ahead and underestimate Utah. Think that there isn’t nightlife in the town and every gin-jockey is a return missionary. Eventually our paths will cross and you’ll find yourself explaining to accounting how you racked up an enormous bar tab.

 *******

On a very sad note, Salt Lake lost a very good man on Wednesday morning. His name was Jim Hadley. I wish I could give a more detailed biography of Jim but I am limited in what he has told me during our eight year friendship. What I do know is that he loved his wife, family and his friends. He was quiet and reserved and projected a strength that was comforting to anyone around him.

I first met Jim at The Tavernacle when he was working the door. I bartended with his wife, Suzy, for over five years and during those special hours after the doors were locked, I often found myself sitting next to Jim talking about nothing in particular. Sharing a whiskey, Jim was a calming force when recanting the night’s events. He was funny, opinionated and sincere. It was always a pleasure knocking back a Jack Daniels with Jim.

In addition to working at the club, Jim worked at Crown Pawn as their resident jewelry man. His knowledge of precious stones was dumbfounding. He was the opposite of the stereotypical pawn shop man. He knew that people used the pawn shop as a way of getting by and not a repository for stolen merchandise. In the dark days of The Woodshed, I found myself getting a loan at Crown Pawn and instead of shaming me with my desperate need for money, he was supportive and understanding.

I throw around the word mensch frequently in both the column and the SLC PubCast. I often ask people to be a mensch and help spread the word of the content I am producing. Too often it gets lost in translation and traffic and doesn’t really reflect what a mensch really is. For those goys who don’t speak a word of Yiddish, mensch is a person of integrity and honor. It is a person of good character, dignity and a sense of what is right. Jim Hadley was a mensch in all respects and will be sorely missed.

My thoughts are with Jim’s family tonight. I wish them all of the best and share with them their grief in losing such a fine man. Godspeed, Jimmy.

Ben Raskin bartends Wednesday through Saturday at Keys On Main. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out his podcast, SLC PubCast, on iTunes.

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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.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Put Them In A Chokehold

  1. You should do a expose on how Utah’s beer isn’t “3.2%” but due to the fact that Utah measure alcohol by weight everything gets skewed…

    Posted by D-Marq | March 9, 2012, 8:25 am
  2. amazing piece ! i will come back to read again soon

    Posted by Wilson Balo | March 13, 2012, 1:02 am

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