tales from the other side of the bar.

I was chatting with a girlfriend the other week and we were reminiscing on our old lives as servers and bartenders trying to make a living. It has been nearly 8 years since I left that world but occasionally it’s fun to take that trip down memory lane. Of all of the jobs I’ve held over the years, one of my favourites was working behind the bar in different bars and nightclubs. Of course, any job that involves dealing with the public (particularly when alcohol is involved) is always challenging, but despite it being a physically and mentally exhausting, I absolutely loved it. I loved the staff, the interaction with the customers, the music, the atmosphere, the DJ’s – on a good night it was almost like being paid for a night out with my favourite people!

After a few years I found that the same characters appeared in every establishment:

  • The permanently drunk and often borderline abusive regulars who assumed that their regularity commanded special treatment over everyone else.
  • The ones looking for a fight.
  • The snobs who looked down on the staff because they were in a service sector.
  • The business wannabes who were trying to impress their boss and potential clients by buying expensive rounds whilst loudly guffawing at a poor joke that their colleagues were making.
  • The coin tappers.
  • The ‘hey! I was next’ impatient boys in their early 20’s.
  • The underage who nervously avoided eye contact while attempting to order a triple vodka and cran (which is technically illegal to serve).
  • The people who became incensed when they were refused service despite the fact that they could barely stand up by themselves.
  • The men who would try and chat up the female staff in an attempt to get served quicker.
  • The women who would try and chat up both the male and female staff in an attempt to get served quicker.

It was a truly glamorous job at times.

Eight years since I last stood behind a bar, there are still a few characters that are still memorable.

Miller Man: This guy turned up every Friday night with a different beautiful woman on his arm. He ordered two bottles of Miller, then spent the rest of the evening feeling his date up in the corner. I came to the conclusion that he possessed one of three things: an incredibly charming personality, massive wallet (highly unlikely considering that he only ever bought two bottles of beer each night) or a massive… ahem… mini Miller Man hiding down below.

Hot Chocolate Man: He was short and stumpy and always ordered a hot chocolate without marshmallows. We didn’t serve marshmallows and I repeatedly told him so but he continued to order the same thing every time he came in. I came to find out he also happened to be one of the biggest drug dealers in the area.

The Angry Men: A couple of men, who were incensed at being removed, decided to steal a car from outside and smashed it through the front doors of the nightclub. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but the club went into lockdown and we were all moved into the middle of the dance floor in the main room. I only worked there for 3 weeks before deciding Downtown Toronto was a little too much for me.

Mr Tits-Pervert: This man seemed to think that my boobs were trained in pouring pints. It wasn’t uncommon for men to order their drinks while staring at my chest, but this guy made it more than obvious. In fact, he never looked anywhere else during the entire process. He was more than capable of making eye contact with his friends, just not with the female bar staff. Creep.

The Eternal Cryer: She would arrive each weekend night looking beautifully made up. She would be smiling and laughing with her friends and obviously had the intention of a good night out. However, every time I saw this woman at the end of the night she was crying – her make-up had run down her face and she was snotting on the shoulder of one of her friends. Clearly she couldn’t handle her alcohol – it made me wonder why she bothered to put make-up on in the first place.

The Urinator: One guy at the end of the night seemed to take ages when ordering his drink. I found out later that his delay was caused by the fact that he was busy urinating down the front of the bar and couldn’t multitask by talking at the same time. Stay classy my friend.

Miss No-Knickers: This woman was beautiful and her regular outfit of choice was always a neon Lycra mini-skirt, a bra and a pair of shoes. That was it. I admired her confidence. However, let’s just say that when she bent over it was obvious that underwear had not been taken into consideration when planning her night. She liked to bend over a lot. Funny, but most of the male security guards didn’t seem to mind.

I love my current life, but I sometimes miss the carefree nature of those days, especially now in this covid world where nights like these seem to far away.

I like to think that somewhere, the little Hot Chocolate Man got his marshamallows…

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