View Full Version : Any bartenders/bar employees here? Need some color/work detail

07-22-2015, 06:08 PM
The WIP is an urban fantasy. The main character has a part time gig as a bartender/asst manager type job.

The bar is a local dive which also serves the tourist trade in season in a lakefront Michigan town.

I've got it setup so the owner is her Dad's old police partner and is pretty much an "Uncle" to her. She's struggling financially so he let's her live in the apartment above the bar. She's officially part time, and is paid at that rate, but he takes money off the rent under the table to make up for the extra unclocked hours. (Yeah, it's illegal, but neither one cares). In return she manages the closing shift most weekends and is available on short notice when they are understaffed, etc.

Does this sound, if not 100% accurate, at least reasonable?

I also need some details and color as to what she'd do on a shift. Assume she'd vary between being more of the manager in charge some nights to simply working the bar other times when another manager is running the place.

I'm looking for the literally equiv of "the bartender washing the glasses with a rag" that you always see in movies, but a bit more detailed. Just details and color I can drop in for the scenes that happen at the bar.

Maze Runner
07-22-2015, 08:04 PM
Heh, I was born on top of a bar. Well, at the hospital a few blocks away, but lived on top of the bar for a few years. One thing I can tell you is she won't get much more than a minute's peace. My father who owned the bar was always getting called downstairs when he was trying to relax. The bar owned him, which is always the case in that business, but when you live right upstairs you're to go-to person for anything that comes up that no one else wants to take responsibility for--I think your FMC will get more than she bargained for. Not all bad of course, a lot of fun, a lot of interesting "characters", hilarious situations. But fights, drunks, we had a robbery, a shooting, everything that you can imagine. She may grow to loathe alcohol, the smell of it, what it does to people. My father rarely took a drink after that experience--too bad it didn't work on me. Sounds like a great setting, premise for a story.

07-22-2015, 08:37 PM
My husband was an elementary teacher but he worked a couple of nights and weekends as a bartender. His hands were always chapped. He had a huge assortment of hand creams, they covered the top of his nightstand and filled a shelf in the bathroom. The best was something called "Corn Husker's Lotion" because it is not greasy. He used it several times a day when he was bar tending. It has a distinct scent and when I smell it I think of him. At night he used a cream based lotion. He didn't buy them himself, I was in charge of buying the lotions because he did not want to buy something as "girly" as hand lotion. He drew the line at pink. He would not use a pink hand cream!

This was during the seventies, when we were first married and there was an organist in a bar he worked at. The name of the organist was Lonnie Sands and his specialty song was Tie a Yellow Ribbon. To the day he died my husband had a list of songs he could not stand and we all knew that list. All had been over played at bars where he worked. Tie a Yellow Ribbon was at the top of that list. Rubber Ducky and Stand By Your Man were two more. He once hid a Sesame Street album of our daughters because of Rubber Ducky.

He worked at high class bars and dives so he could pull beers and whip up fancy drinks like Angel Wings and Tumbleweeds. He had a book about drinks--Mr. Boston's I think--to keep up on drinks. He also talked with other bar tenders about the new drinks. He also had tricks. He could pour cream off the back of a spoon or make a drink with three or more layers. My grandfather was also a bartender. He knew every bar trick, card trick, bet and dice game in the world. There are dice games that the bar tender plays with a patron to see how much they pay for the drink.

In most bars the staff gets a free meal--a sandwich and a drink, non-alcoholic-- but in a skinflint bar--and some really ritzy bars are surprisingly cheap towards the help--the staff had to buy their meal. Sometimes the food was half price but in one or two they were full price, at more than one exclusive place, the help was expected to pay the inflated prices that the well heeled customers paid. When that happens the staff comes up with crazy ways to eat at the owners expense--like keeping a pocket full of peanuts, croutons, lettuce or crackers and munching all day on that, or stealing rolls and meat scraps from the freezer at night. My husband never did that but he did sympathize with the single mothers who worked as waitresses and bartenders who did pilfer groceries, cleaning supplies and even toilet paper.

One thing that drove my husband up the wall was a bar owner, a kid who grew up rich, who gave certain people free drinks. Once the other patrons figure out someone gets preferential treatment they make the bartenders life miserable asking for free drinks. He always said that free drinks closed bars. I never heard that again until I started watching Jon Taffer.

Another thorn in his side was the regulars. They are not always a happy family like in Cheers! There are feuds, heckling and harassment and the bartender is the referee. He used to say that about an hour before closing time the place turned into his classroom. He taught fourth grade!

Norm from Cheers is REAL. There really are people who just will not go home! Sad but true and frustrating because bar tenders and waitresses have family too. It is so unfair to be deprived of your family because someone else cannot keep one. Once there was a huge blizzard coming. The owners closed down the bar but the idiots at the bar were determined to stay and drink all night and the next day. They finally let my husband go home and then locked everything up and stopped serving. In the morning there were some really cold. grouchy, hung over clients until the bar re-opened.

My husband had been trying to be nice when he was the only one there. The owners showed up because they knew what was going to happen. The owner told my husband to always close down at the first snowflake if a storm is coming, otherwise you are stuck with them for days. One regular, I even remember his name, Paul, was so bad about not leaving at closing time that they used to ask him to take out the garbage and then lock the door behind him. He never caught on that it wasn't an accident. My husband was worried that they might lose a customer. The owner told my husband that sometimes they lost a garbage can but they never lost Paul.--s6

07-22-2015, 10:06 PM
Thanks guys.

" One thing I can tell you is she won't get much more than a minute's peace. My father who owned the bar was always getting called downstairs when he was trying to relax. The bar owned him, which is always the case in that business, but when you live right upstairs you're to go-to person for anything that comes up that no one else wants to take responsibility for-"

Good. This is exactly what I was envisioning when I thought about putting her there.

What's generally involved with closing up these days? I mean, what are all the things you have to do to close for the night?