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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lifers

There comes a time in every bartender’s life where they feel that they should call it quits. This can happen after a year of working in the madness or twenty years. Working in the bartending industry can be physically wearing on a person. There is only a select group of people who are cut out for it and only a handful of people who can do it for life. In ever bar and or restaurant that I have worked in over the years there has been at least one “lifer” who has worked there.
“Lifers” are a special breed of people and at times I too have questioned my own status in the bartending and serving industry. There have been times where I made conscious decisions to take jobs outside of this industry for less money, in hopes that I would be able to kick the lifer label. I now know some distinct differences between the “lifer” status bartender label and the “I can’t get enough” bartender status. For those bartenders wanting a break or needing an escape from the job due to the fear of the “lifer” status, there is still hope! Here are the differences I have found.

Lifer
Have worked in a place for so long that they could be the boss, but choose not to.
Never stay at a place long enough to get asked to do anything over head bartender or trainer.
If asked to manage, they usually will try their hand at it. Some will manage, some will make excuses as to why the bar or restaurant screwed them. Known for working their way up in a company.
I Can't Get Enough
If asked to manage, they say “Hell No”! I make three times as much as the managers. If they decide to manage a bar or restaurant it would be one where they had not previously bartended.
Lifer
They in the beginning of their career started bartending/serving night shifts where all of the money is. They eventually move to days so that they can have a set schedule, less work, and less customer contact.
I Can't Get Enough
Throughout their time bartending, they take the shifts where the money is. They can handle customers with ease, they don’t mind working, and they love the crazy bar schedules that come with the shifts. It’s what they are used to.
Lifer
They do the majority of the side work duties.
I Can't Get Enough
They scam on side work when they can get away with it. But they always fly under the radar.
Lifer
They bitch about their job most of the time at work.
I Can't Get Enough
They stay too busy to bitch. They only bitch when their money is affected.
Lifer
They can make every drink in the bar perfect to the oz. They make them just like the managers tell them to. They also use the appropriate glass ware.
I Can't Get Enough
They “wing it” sometimes in drink making. They over pour for a better tip. They disregard the manager’s instruction on drink making most of the time. They use any glass ware handy.
Lifer
They have a million stories about how the “Old Days” at their bar were. They have a good collection of stories, but they are usually all about the same handful of people.
I Can't Get Enough
They have the best stories. They have a million stories about different past co-workers and bar regulars. They usually have stories about different states as well as bars they have worked in.
Lifer
They have usually never held any other type of job. They have never worked more than one job at a time.
I Can't Get Enough
They have worked in other job fields, even if just a second part time job.
Lifer
They are usually not educated past the high school level. If they are, it is usually company training or restaurant management degrees.
I Can't Get Enough
They usually obtain the jobs to work their way through college and they cannot get enough of the money. Sometimes they are teachers who still bartend in the summers ect…
Lifer
Bartending is a career and they take it seriously.
I Can't Get Enough
Bartending is fun, they have been fire or quit without notice at least once.

The “Lifer” is a special breed of people who make the bar and restaurant industry world go around. If it weren’t for these people the job wouldn’t be the same. Plus the “can’t get enough” people would have no one to hide from, antagonize, or bitch about at work. I have come across many “lifers” over the years, but like every “can’t get enough” bartender, I have a favorite.

The “lifer” who grew to be my favorite over the years is a lady whom I have worked with in two different establishments. This lady has had a full life cycle in the bar and restaurant industry, and over ten years I have personally gotten to watch most of these cycles take place. I started serving tables at a rib joint/ sports bar in my twenties. This lady was a bartender who was eager to move up in the company. Before long she was an assistant manager or shift leader, this lasted a few months before taking the spot of another manager who had been fired. She was one of our favorite managers because she was pretty much an alcoholic and would let us do whatever we wanted. She moved up the chain quickly in the two years that I worked with her, but she had previously been bartending and serving her whole life. This was her first real management job, and she was really no good at it from an owners view point. This lady would call corporate and bitch about schedules, our GM, and any other cause she deemed fit every week. She would rally her server and bartender troops and try to get people fired all of the time; this is how she was so successful with her job advancement in the company. Weeks before I left this job she was fired for being drunk at work and injuring herself.

I had heard that she had gone back to serving tables and bartending at a different restaurant, but I had lost contact with her when I moved out of the state. When I relocated back to my home town years later she was still at it, serving tables at the restaurant she had went to after being fired from the sports bar. I would go in and see her occasionally listening to the same complaints I had heard from her at our previous job. Seven years into this job, she decided she could no longer take management and ask me to get her a job at the bar I was currently working at. I did, and I did not warn the managers because I hated that job. She came into that job serving tables at night, and then she moved relatively quickly through the other cycles. First she was a night server, bartender, trainer, day bartender, and then back to day server. She never quite made it to manager status at this bar.

She has worked at that establishment now for six years. She has botched her way from promotion to demotion of all positions available. She cannot be fired though; it has been tried by all managers who have worked there. One of the keys to her success is that she stays after work and drinks with the management, so she always has something on them. She is my favorite “lifer” though, because she somehow manages to get job opportunities and she takes advantage of them. She usually fucks it up and is demoted, but she has only been fired once.

The Full Cycle of Life in a Bar: host, busser, or bar-back/ day server/ cocktail server/ night server/ day or service well bartender/ night bartender/ assistant manager or shift leader/ manager/ general manager/ corporate-if they have skills/---bartender/day bartender/server/day server/retirement.
I guess ever bar needs a “lifer” to keep the memories of old times pasts, to keep the managers in check, and to motivate the “non-lifers’ into doing their side work. Every “lifer” serves a purpose in the bar, but as the older they get the purpose becomes less clear. So remember when you are at work bartenders, be kind to your “lifer”. They deserve respect, they have been at this job their whole life and for most of their life they were probably better at it than you. They are also; old, tired, and have seen it all so when they are grouchy or slow at their jobs, cut them some slack

Drink of the day

Incredible Hulk
10z of Hennesey
10z of Hypnotic
served chilled on the rocks