Category Archives: Bar Story

Locking Up The Taps

This post will only be remarkable to .00000000001% of the population in the world, but I’m super excited about it, so here goes.

When you’re bartending at a hotel bar, usually you have to lock up behind the bar at the end of the night, because it is usually exposed to the rest of the hotel.  i.e. drunk guy at 3am can’t sneak behind the bar, and steal some booze.  Usually there’s a way to lock up the liquor, the coolers, the tap handles.  Now I’ve worked at two hotel bars, and I’m seeing a trend.  The locks you put on the taps are worthless.  For some reason, they never fit on right, never tighten correctly, never stay on.  They’re just not made durably.  The keys are also flimsy, and tend to break off in the locks.  Also, it’s usually stripped out where you put the key in.  There’s only so much you can do when this occurs.  At my current hotel gig, when I was trained, my fellow bartender says, you’ve got to figure out the trick to it.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t really articulate the trick.  It’s more of a feel.

Last night, when closing up, I DREADED having to tackle this task.  But then I said to myself, you know what?  If I have to spend three hours on this tonight, I’m all in.  I’m going to figure out the trick, or I’m gonna sleep behind the bar to protect the keg beer.

After ten minutes of finagling with the locks, I had an epiphany.  What if I loosen the lock the whole way, get it into position at its highest point, THEN tighten it.  I tried it, it worked, I almost cried.

I learned a good lesson.  Instead of hurrying into a frenzy believing that I’ll never figure it out, I took my time, trying different tactics before I succeeded in figuring it out.  

And that was my “key” to success.  I left the bar feeling pretty good about life. 





What Would You Like To Pair With That?

I’m at Table 128, a semi-fancy restaurant in West Des Moines celebrating my 46th birthday with my mum and step-father. The server approaches the table to take our order.  My mum orders first, and the server says, what would you like to pair with that?

I like that question:  what would you like to pair with that?  Instead of the tried and true, what would you like for a side?  It’s more upscale, and appealing.  I don’t think you’re going to be at a Perkins, and the server is going to say, what would you like to pair with your burger?  I think I’ll try it out next time I’m taking someone’s food order.  A good poet borrows…a great poet steals.

I’m at the hotel bar last night, a guy approaches the bar, says, can I put in an order for some food?  I say, absolutely!  What would you like?  He looks at the menu, says, I’ll take the tenderloin sandwich.  

Here’s my chance:

Sounds great!  What would you like to pair with that?

He looks up quizzically, says, huh?

I repeat, what would you like to pair with that?

He says, um…what do you mean?

Giving up, I blurt, what would you like for a side?

Oh, he says, I’ll take the fries.

So much for me being fancy.



Never Fall Asleep At The Bar

I’m serving at the hotel.  Fairly slow night, I’ve got about three tables.  It’s nearing the end of the night.

I’m at the bar, there’s a gentleman sitting at the bar, head down.  The bartender approaches the man, and says, hey Mike.  You sleeping?  The guy raises his head, says, no, no.  I was just on my phone.

From the bartender’s perspective, with his head down, it looked like he was asleep.  But he just had his phone below the bar, out of sight.

The guy says, that’s my number one rule.  Never fall asleep at the bar.

I’d say that’s a pretty strong rule.  Might even be the most important rule someone could have.  Never fall asleep at the bar.  If you can focus on that one rule, and never break it, life should go pretty swimmingly for you.  Break the rule, there’s no telling the chaos that will become your life.



A Rant About Bar Scenes In Movies

You know what pisses me off?  Enter RANT.  Yes, people that leave their visors down in cars after they leave.  Sure, that’s annoying.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

Bar scenes in movies.  Could we get some realism, please?  I’m watching a movie last night called Bad Match.  I would give it a B-.  Decent flick, solid acting, but predictable plot points and twist at end.  But whatever.  This is what pissed me off about the movie.

The two characters are at the bar, the bartender comes up to take their order, and the guy’s schtick is, he can figure out what his “Tinder-like” date drinks.  Wait, gimme a sec…it’s a VODKA CRANBERRY.  Oh my God, I can’t BELIEVE you just guessed it.

On a side note before I go on, I’ve noticed a lot of the ladies ordering Moscow Mules.  Is that becoming a girl drink?  I’m impressed.  It seems to have started out being a guy’s drink, but now I’ve noticed a lot of women are ordering it.  I approve.

So the guy orders his “Scotch” (cool drink for a millennial he says with a dash of bitters), and a Vodka Cran for the lady.  Moments later the bartender brings the drinks, and the Scotch is whatever, but the bartender plops down a “funky” martini glass, with a red liquid in it.  Hell-LOOOO.  No dude, just stop.  That’s wrong on so many levels.

Even my Mom God bless her knows what a Vodka Cranberry looks like.  It should always go in a rocks glass, or maybe a tall glass, with rocks, ounce and a half of vodka, and cranberry juice.  It’s NEVER up (without ice), in a damn martini glass.  What the bartender brought her basically looked like a Cosmo.

When you’ve bartended as long as I have, and have experience on a movie set, these details matter.  Without attention to detail, there is CHAOS.  Hey, director, why don’t you take a bit more time with the research, and find out what a Vodka Cranberry looks like, so you won’t PISS ME OFF.  Yes, I know, I know, the drink in the martini glass looks so much more appealing.  Well, then, have her order a martini, and there you go.

You know what else irks me?  When the character asks for a cocktail, and in two seconds, there appears the cocktail in front of them.  That’s bullshit.  Time it out, directors.  Guy orders drink, bartender leaves frame.  Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue (lasting approximately 12-15 seconds) THEN drink gets set down.  Make time for that truth.  The whole scene will play better, and more realistic.  And another thing that is important, which I grant the director of Bad Match played up on, is every character has a signature drink.  Writers need to be in tune with that.  If you’re writing a scene in a bar, take two seconds to describe what the character is drinking.  You can tell A LOT about a character by what they drink.  Are they a domestic guy, don’t give a shit?  OR more of a craft beer guy?  An IPA, perhaps?  What is the lady drinking?  Talk to a bartender, do the research.  What are the ladies drinking nowadays that would be an interesting choice?

I don’t know…how ‘bout a Moscow Mule?



You Got Busch Light?

Last night, I got my ass handed to me.  The Deer Classic Convention was in town, and they like to drink.  Here’s how most of my conversations went like last night:

Hey how you doing?  Good…give me two Busch Lights, two Coors Lights, a Double Crown and Diet, and a Captain Coke.  Sorry, sir.  We don’t have Busch Light.  What?  No, Busch Light?  No, sorry, sir.  No Busch Light.  Hm…Well, then, give me four Coors Lights.  A double Crown and Diet…  (Looks over shoulder)…Hey Joe, you wanna drink?  Yeah, get me a Busch Light.  They don’t have Busch Light.  No Busch Light?  Yeah, they got Coors…You got Bud Light?  Yes, sir.  We have Bud Light.  Bud?  Yes, we have Bud.  (Looks back over shoulder)  They got Bud Light, Coors Light, and Bud.  They got Miller Light?  (Turns back)  You got Miller Light?  Yes, we have Miller Light.  (Looks back to Joe).  Yeah, they got Miller Light.  Aw Hell, just give me a Crown and Coke.  Crown and Coke?  You wanna double?  Yeah, make it a double.  In a tall glass.  (Turns back).  Ok.  He wants a Crown and Coke.  Ok, so four Coors Lights, a Double Crown and Diet.  A Captain and Coke, and a Double Crown and Coke Tall.  Correct?  Hang on a second.  (Turns back over his shoulder).  Hey Jack.  You want something?  Yeah, get me a Busch Light.  They don’t GOT Busch Light.  They got….

I imagine my hell being behind the bar, with this never-ending conversation that goes on and on for all eternity with no cigarette breaks in between.

And it’s not Coors Light…  it’s Kerrs Light.



Men In High Heels Holiday

I’m doing some banquet bartending last night for the Black & Blue Ball, honoring cops from around the state of Iowa.  I worked it the previous year, and it was a really good experience, and most importantly, a profitable night.

Last night turned out to be another successful event.  The people in attendance were respectful, and generous.  Cops, wives, friends and families of cops.  The saddest story of the night was told by a spouse of a cop who was killed in the line of duty.  Seeing him get up to speak was heartwrenching.  I really respected how he got up, and let it all hang out, telling stories about his deceased wife, and the moments with her that made him joyful.  I can’t imagine the pain the guy went thru.  Makes you want to hug your wife and kids even stronger.

Near the end of the night, people are getting their groove on.  Always hilarious watching white people dancing.  It’s awkward, but they looked like they were having fun, and that’s all that matters.  A lot of the ladies, by around 11pm, were walking around barefoot, their high heels left at their table, or carried around by their fingertips.  I wonder when is the appropriate time for a woman to get out of those heels at a party.  Is it after the third drink?  The fourth?  I sure as hell don’t blame them.  How you ladies walk around in those heels on a daily basis is impressive.  It’s like you’re stilt walkers, from home, to office, to party, to home.  My feet at the end of the night were sore from standing 10 hours in comfortable tennis shoes.  I can’t imagine yours.

I think there should be a holiday every year where MEN have to wear heels.  Just so we could literally “put ourselves in their shoes.”  I think men would get a new understanding, and respect, for women on what they put themselves thru for fashion.  And wouldn’t it be hilarious to watch all these guys try to get around wearing high heels.  Make it in the winter time, where there’s ice, and make it extra-challenging for them.




Remembering People’s Names

I’m behind the bar, around 6ish.  Two guys sit, sipping craft beers, we get to talking.  One of them asks my name, I say, Clint.  Curtis.

Over the years, I’ve learned to say my name.  What?  What do you mean learn to say your name?  I mean this.  OWNING your name with confidence.  After conquering that feat, I’ve made it a PRIORITY to learn people’s name.  The #1 most important part of business is learning people’s names.  I would even go as far as one of the most important things to do.  If you can wake up in the morning at a decent hour, get in the shower, shave, and eat a semblance of a good breakfast, learn people’s names and you’re bound for plentiful success.

I ask, what’s your names?  They say, Aaron and Josh.  I say out loud:  Aaron and Josh.  Aaron and Josh.  Aaron and Josh.  Aaron and Josh.  Josh nods, and says, you got it.

They leave after awhile, I bartend, and it’s an absolute shitshow.  Get a pot, put in WRESTLING TOURNAMENT, add in BACON FEST with a sprinkle of two weddings and a bachelorette party, and that was my night.  Am I complaining?  HELL NO.  See previous post:  I Like Money.

The two guys from before stroll in at midnight.  They’ve had a productive night, I can see it in their eyes.  I say, what’s up fellas?  One of them says, you remember our names?  I take a moment to check my memory bank, then say,

Aaron and Josh!

Aaron says, Yes!  …Now I feel guilty.  I don’t remember yours.

Bill Clinton taught me a very important lesson, and I always love to tell this story.  When he was in his early 20’s, and met someone for the first time, he’d get out a little notepad, and write the person’s name in it.  30 years later, he’s President, and sees the guy, and says, hey Frank!  And THAT is why the guy became President.

Ok.  He did some other stuff too.