The Care And Feeding of Your Friendly Neighbourhood Bar Staff

Being a discourse on bar staff, their types and habits, and how to deal with them in and out of their natural habitat.

After working at a local bar for the past six+ months, I've learned first-hand just how differant things are when you're on the other side of the bartop. Here's some of that knowledge for those of you who've never had the pleasure (and pain) of being a barstaff.

The single most recognizable and appreciated part of any bar, the bartender is also mistakenly identified as the being the hardest-working barstaff, even if they really are the most important (all other things being equal, people will almost always go to the bar with the better bartender). In their defense, however, being a successful bartender does require more training and more raw talent than any other barstaff. Just memorizing the literally hundreds of drinks is an accomplishment worthy of praise. On top of that, a bartender must be able make them all well, talk with customers, push the liquor, keep an eye on the floor, deal with any problems that arise, and still make damned good drinks. But they're not the hardest-working barstaff.

Pity these men. Because they are the most negatively stereotyped men on the planet. And yes, there are female bouncers, but they are in such a minority that I don't feel unjustified in using the male pronoun. I've encountered one female bouncer in my entire life. And she didn't last long. Bouncers are typically stereotyped as being big, dumb, toothless brawlers with no real purpose in life. Wrong, wrong, wrong. At least, this may be the case for some of the younger guys, but they don't tend to last long in any case. The long-lasting, successful bouncers tend to be guys in their 30s or later, generally have a family life, and are truely nice guys. Except they're bloody huge and break noggin's for a living. *shrug* Always be nice to the bouncer(s) at your favorite club/bar/pub, as they can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Waitresses, hostesses, servers, call them what you will, they're almost always female (there are exceptions to this rule, of course, as in gay bars). These women are in the front lines, the trenches of working at a bar. They have the most frequent and most personal contact with the customers, without even the benefit of having a nice solid piece of wall seperating them from drunken assholes as bartenders do. Waitresses are generally female just as bartenders are generally male due to simple economics rather than sexism (at least, on the bar's part, perhaps not so on the customers' part). Male bartenders tend to get better tips than female bartenders, just as I've seen female servers at my bar walk out after a good night with a gangsta wad of bills, and the one (first and last) male server we had would be lucky if he had enough for smokes and the cab home.

Waitresses tend to fall into four differant catagories, though there is a great deal of crossover. The bitch, the nice girl, the slut and the air-head. A bitch waitress generally is called so rather unfairly, as she is usually nothing more than a women with a fairly well-developed sense of confidence and a refusal to put up with shit. Though not always. I've encountered more than a few waitresses who were a bitch simply because they seemed to get off on treating people badly. The slut waitress and the air-head don't require a great deal of explanation. The nice girl waitress is a very rare exception, as she usually ends up turning into the bitch, or quits. Because waitressing in a bar is not a place for nice people. From general sexual harassment that would get a person sued or jailed in a normal workplace, to dealing with stupid drunk guys, to threats of (or actual) physical violence, people quit or get bitter real fast.

Here's a job that's neither glorious, nor respected, or even commonly known about. It's also mine, so excuse the bias. Also called bussers/busboys, swampers are the oil that keeps the machine that is a busy bar running. They fall into two catagories though, as in my case, the line can be blurred, if it exists at all. The first is backbar swampers. This is the guy you see running around behind the bar like a cerebellum-deficient poultry. He is responsible for stocking beer fridges; refilling mixes, ice bins; washing glassware as it comes back to the bar, and; otherwise being the bartender's bitch boy. The other catagory is more commonly called the busboy (or busser, for females). He is responsible for cleaning the floor, often assisting/assisted by the servers. He cleans your tables, picks up your empties, empties your ashtray, cleans up the glass you break all over the dance floor even though you've been told a million times not to bring drinks onto the dance floor, gets his tray chock-full of empties knocked over by some stumbling drunk at least three times a night, and is, to put it more succinctly, is the most put-upon and poorly treated bar staff.

Note: I include DJs but not bands, as bands are transient, while DJs tend not to be.
Disk jockey, soundbwoi, the music maker and the dreamer of dreams, this guy is the Boom boom boom to your zoom zoom zoom. Worship him or hate him, for he can make or break a bar, as is (excepting an exceptional bartender) the attraction that brings or repulses the customers, and really defines the patronage (even more than just about any other single factor) with just the music he plays.

The main thing to remember about bar staff and dealing with them is that they are a family and they are a rather exclusive club. The staff at any particular bar are a very tightly-knit group (at least, the ones who been there for any great length of time are) and if you mess with one, you mess with them all. And any one of them has the power to deny you alchohol. So be nice. ;) Bar staff are good people if you respect them, because that's about the rarest thing they get.

Oh yeah. And tip. Don't make me get my barring stick!

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