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For those of you looking for something on the more sophisticated side you have my apologies. This blog unfortunately mirrors the author (yours truly.) Some of the humor is not for everyone but I liked it and it's my blog so there! My patrons sometimes ask me where I come up with some of this stuff. I am glad to tell them my mind is a lot like Canada. It is sometimes a bit cold, there are a few dark corners, some of it down right confusing and even a bit dirty but there is also a lot of neat stuff up there. So I hope you all enjoy this blog! ... Cheers!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Be the Bartender

I get asked all the time "how do I become a bartender?" And why not you will make decent money and have a great time doing it. I commonly refer to it as my "paid night out." Many people think they can just come in off the street and pour vodka in a glass and away they go... Now nuclear physics bar tending is not however it takes a bit more than a pretty face to be successful behind the bar although it helps get your foot in the door it will only get you so far. Unless you want to wear nothing more than a thong and roller skates to work on a daily basis. So here is the path with some good tips to help you not only become a bartender but also to be taken seriously as one. Before I get started here is a brief description of the "front of the house" positions in a bar/ night club setting:
Bar Manager: Depending on the size of the bar there may be more than one of these. With a variety of duties. Their job is to execute the vision of the owners, make sure the bar is not only operational but to ensure all the working parts are in order and making money.

Bartenders: Aka "booze jockeys." This is the front line to the customers. Your greatest job is to always have a smile on your face, be friendly and cordial and make a solid drink. There is no need to be a Picasso of hooch to be successful here. Having a outstanding repore with your customers so they not only return to your bar but even better bring friends is going to be among your greatest assets. I'll touch more on this point later. Finer points to this position is knowing how to do things in an expedient manner and make certain the customers overall experience is an enjoyable one.

Bar back: Aka beer mule and janitor and in some places you will just be known as the "Bar Bitch." doing all the grunt work for the bartenders while they make all the money and have all the fun. Many Bar Managers will try to make the job seem glamorous and profitable. Here is the fine print... They are full of shit. You will learn little more than how to hump 8 cases of beer in one trip while balancing a bottle of vodka between your toes. When looked at by customers in a crowded bar you must avert your eyes like a leper deferring to your master bartender. You will also only get sloppy seconds when it comes to female attention right behind the bathroom attendant. 

Shot Girl: aka "Shot Ho." I am probably going to get lit up for this one and keep in mind it is just my opinion. I have a lot of women I consider good friends that are or have been shot girls. They are all lovely women and if given the opportunity they are all pretty smart. So hopefully they will not feel offended. However, in this position you get to walk around the bar dressed like a high priced hooker and push shots on guys hoping to drink them off your boobs or get some other sort of cheap thrill. You will get hit on CONSTANTLY and I can assure you it is not going to be for your mind or glowing personality. A majority of your time spent in your platform heels will be cleaning up spilled liquor off different parts of your body and fending off roaming hands. My advise to you if this seems appealing to you is to go get a god cozy pair of clear platform heels and learn how to take off clothes to music and climb a pole. Being a stripper is far more profitable, less dangerous and less degrading. I once heard a Bartender say when the Bar Manager asked someone to take out the trash say "that means you have to walk the shot girls to their car!"
Don't just take my word for it here is a little blog with more chronicles of shot girls dealing with creepers.
Server: Depending on the bar/ club this position is decent money and you don't have to dress like a prostitute. Mostly waiting/ busing tables, setting up bottle service and selling VIP tables. Personality is 85% of this job. If this seems like your cup of tea make sure you watch the movie "Waiting" before you start you first day.

Security: Aka "Bouncer." Again depending on the bar/ night club, this is where you get to spend your night acting like a referee for the WWE all the while trying to keep 16 year old kids with fake ID's out. Keep in mind that angry drunks feel no pain and have no problem going to jail, so you will have to be able to take a punch or two and know how to say "you're out of here with more authority than a MLB Umpire." I have been in some clubs where this position can be the equivalent to a prison guard. It gets dangerous and the pay can be paltry. On the upside you will however get a ton of phone numbers and offers from women willing to do some seriously messed up shit in hopes of circumventing the line to get in for the future visits. 

Alright now that we have a good overview of the general anatomy here is my advice in a few easy steps to getting behind the bar and making that money!

Step 1: Be Qualified
Most states mandate that you be over the age of 18 and in some cases 21 to serve alcoholic beverages. Also you must be able to lift about 30lbs and be able to work in a fast environment while multi tasking. Lastly, and this is a big one. Like meeting new people. If you are a miserable SOB and hate dealing with the public it will come out to your customers. Allow me to expand on this...

Example: This past Christmas night I ended up going out to a local bar in Biddeford, Maine called "Champs." Great name for a sports bar, terrific atmosphere too with pool tables, dart boards, a large bar and stage for bands and karaoke. Christmas night there was a solid crowd and 1 bartender on duty. She was super friendly and personable. She smiled all night even though she was busy and you could tell she was in a little over her head at times, but she worked hard and I am positive she made money. The drink she gave me was full of fruit flies (this sometimes happens especially if the alcohol isn't properly covered when not in use) and she ended up giving me a new drink and apologized profusely. This would be enough to deter any return to the bar in the future. Her work alone made me want to return to the bar. Turns out she was a bar back that knew how to bar tend! She was outstanding! The next two times I went into the bar the real bartenders were working. The bar was far from busy and it took forever for the "bartender" to acknowledge we were there. When she finally came over after finishing a conversation with her friends she never cracked a smile and acted like we were bothering her. I left her $0 tip which I never do. The bar back came over and said hi to all of us and shared a quick laugh. We decided to give Champs one more try. Different bartender with the SAME result! Once again my tip reflected the service given, a big fat zero.

The moral to that story is you must enjoy being around, listening to and interacting with a wide variety of people in this job. Some have it some don't. If you are strictly in it for the money then your attitude will come through.

Step 2: Get the Training.
Much like any other field it always helps to know what the hell you are doing. If you come in without any training or experience many places will tell you to beat it. There are bartender schools all over the country and now some of them are even now online or weekend only training. I went through Boston Bartender School. Whatever school you choose my advice here is to make sure there is a hands on lab where they teach you hands-on how to pour, recipes, glassware and how to properly build a drink. Another thing to look for is a school that has job placement. This is important because in order to get a bar tending job you must have experience. A school that provides placement will have relationships with a variety of establishments or catering companies that will foster your newly found skills and get you the experience to move to the next level.

Another piece to this puzzle is to be ServSafe or TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) Certified. Both of these courses can be found online, through your school or even in some cases the local police departments host these classes. Both classes teach you how to spot someone that has bad to much to drink, how to deal with someone that has been over-served hopefully at another location. How to spot a false Identification and protect both you and the establishment you work for. A bartender found guilty irresponsible serving can open you up to all sorts of legal, financial and professional ramifications.
Step 3: Finding the Job
Again a school with placement will help you gain the first couple jobs. Do NOT throw yourself into the deep end here. Your first job should not be at a busy night club or high end establishment where you will be the only bartender on duty. It will take you just one night behind a busy bar to make you look silly and panicked. My advice here is look for either a hotel with a quiet bar to get your feet wet or a chain restaurant with day shifts and some easy weekday shifts. Get comfortable back there. Learning all the little nuances including how to work efficiently here is the key. All the while honing your technique and building a following of regulars.
Actually finding openings in the bar world can be tough. So here is another great place for Facebook and just talking to others in the business. Craigslist seems to be were most places post their openings. Depending on your area especially the seasonal places here in Maine tend to post their openings in the food and beverage section under jobs.

Step 4: Add a Little Polish
When you go in for that interview dress neat and especially clean. Guys you must be clean shaven and wear something appropriate to the job. Don't go in wearing a suit and tie unless you are trying for a high end establishment. Most times for guys a pair of khaki pants, a good button down and a pair of clean non-slip shoes shows that you can clean up nicely. If the bar allows then you can dress down from there. Much like meeting a women in a bar and she knows in 5 seconds weather or not she will take you home that night for some naked Twister. First impressions are EVERYTHING! Ladies same thing goes here. Neat and clean. No need to look like Mother Theresa but if you want to be taken seriously keep a majority of your cleavage left to the imagination.

Have a cover letter resume. Even if it is not extensive. This will make you stand out among all the others as having your general shit together. Many times it even circumvents the need to sit there filling out a application and puts you to the front of the line when it comes to interviews.

Step 4: Build your Following
I have interviewed for a good number of bar tending jobs. I have also been asked a lot of crazy questions in those interviews. "What sort of shampoo do you use?" (uhhhh I'm a bald dude! So uhm... Irish Springs bar soap??? Awkward silence.) "Would you consider working shirtless?" And my favorite so far "Do you man scape or tweeze and would you consider waxing your eyebrows? (It was a straight bar too!) All crazy questions aside a growing common question is "Do you do any social networking and can we see your following?" Bar Managers and Owners want to know what you can do for them and will you help promote for you and the bar. I have run into bars that wouldn't even talk to me unless I had over 500 Facebook friends. Even then they wanted me to tell all my friends and then come in on a Wednesday night  and see how many would show up. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are perfect for letting people know when you will be behind the bar and how they can go about seeing your shining smiley face.

Finally: Know your Stuff!
Sort of a blanket statement here but here are a few final tips to being successful in your new career as a fun friendly bartender.
+ Know your stock and have favorites and specialties. I can't even count the number of times I have been asked "what is your favorite drink to make?" The real answer is Bud Light however I have a few go to drinks that can give the customer a little wow factor. The customer is looking for something new and tasty so give them what they want.
+ Know your customers. Do your best to remember names and little things about your customers. If you treat them like friends they will be great to you. Think if you had your choice of two bars side by side with the same sort of menu and type of atmosphere would you go to the bar that treats you like a number or the one that treats you like an old friend? Treat your customers right and they will return.
+  Know your job and excel at it. There is no need to learn how to juggle bottles unless you really want to. I tell people all the time I don't juggle and I have never been to clown college. However a little flare isn't a bad thing. Constantly learning new things about your craft will only make you a better well rounded bartender. Learning about different era cocktails, new and interesting recipes and ingredients will make you stand out.
+ Enjoy what you do and you will never work another day in your life!


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