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June 20-26, 2007

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Barman: Year Two

Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
Trust the Barman: Nothing from this guy comes watered down.

The Barman's Revenge

He's back to pour his heart out once again, and he wants you to keep those cards and letters coming

By Ryan Osterbeck

Silicon Valley Bars & Clubs 2007:
Intro | The Barman's revenge | San Jose | Campbell | Cupertino | Los Altos | Los Gatos | Mountain View | Palo Alto | Santa Clara | Saratoga | Sunnyvale

Last year, I wrote an article for Metro's Bars and Clubs issue laying out the common myths about bartenders. It was in no way meant to be taken as tablets handed down from on high, just some barkeep tips and wisdom that could possibly make the nightly exchange between bartenders and patrons a little better and cultivate some mutual respect. The bartending myths weren't exactly a new thing, in fact most of what was written has been making the vocal rounds in the early morning hours between bartenders, servers, bar backs and busboys for years and years; I just put it out there.

The flood of mail and the responses, both pro and con, has been nothing short of astounding. And, you know what the most contentious topic was? Tipping. Probably the number one response within the tipping argument was a call for bartenders to get a "real" job. What exactly about the job of bartending or serving isn't real? We punch a clock, work, get money, get taxed by the IRS. Shit, sounds like a real job to me.

The IRS, by the way, taxes most of the people in the service industry on their total sales, regardless of if we received a tip or not. The IRS expects that a certain percentage gratuity is involved in most service industry sales, hence the practice of automatically deducting that percentage from our paychecks which leads to countless paychecks from our employers with a nice, fat zero on the "amount payable" line. Therefore, yes, we do survive on tips.

The other major complaint was that the piece was just "whining." To which my only response would be: well, yeah. Everyone complains about their job. They may not do it in as public a forum, but bitching about work is human nature.

I'd like to thank everyone that took the time to write in about the article, both positive and negative. And a special thanks has to go out to DaSwankOne on who defended our fine profession with diligence, zeal and wit to spare through nearly a 24-hour thread. Here are some reader comments from the Bartender Myths article shaken with a few choice words, poured into a chilled glass and served with a garnish of sarcasm.

This piece on bartending is hilarious. As a former bartender, I wholeheartedly agree with every point—and could probably add a few more.
Mary A.

Send them in Mary. Because I have a feeling that whether people agree or disagree, this little conflict is not going away.

Finally, someone has hit the nail on the head! Bartending is mostly very hard work and little fun. We all put on a game face behind the bar, it's our job.
Jacque M.

Yeah, bartending, serving, cooking and bussing is hard work and a hell of a lot harder when people can't make the distinction between server and servant. I know they sound similar, use similar letters, but, wow, are their definitions completely different.

That entire text should be akin to "the gospel" and should be required reading in EVERY bar in the world. Colleges should teach courses based on this story.
Damon C.

Damon, thanks for offering up three points of your own: 1: Keep it simple. Most drinks with long, drawn-out names are worthless alcohol content–wise. 2: Never say "hook it up and I'll take care of you." 3: When the bar closes, GET OUT.

In Oregon and most states it's completely illegal for the bartender to drink ANYTHING while they are on the clock. Is there some state where this is legal or does this bartender just blatantly break the law?
Samuel W.

Anything? Don't Oregonians believe in proper hydration? Sam, it's a matter of personal responsibility. ... and a pretty kick-ass working situation. You see, good bartenders can have a couple of shots on their shift without it interfering with their work and most of the great bosses I've had over the years trust their bartenders enough to allow it. Remember, the operative words here are "personal" and "responsibility."

I AM SO SMRT [sic] I AM TEH [sic] DRINK SLINGAR [sic]!

I'm not even going to touch that one ...

Mr. Osterbeck misses the entire point of working in the hospitality industry: a desire to serve people.
Christopher A.

Hee, hee, hah, hah, ha, hee, hah. I'll refer you back to the myths.

"Bartenders are not responsible for you." I think the courts might disagree.
Erin H.

Nearly every bartender I know thinks that the third party liability laws are a bit unfair and that, although the laws are well intended, they displace the blame from the person that is ultimately responsible onto someone that, really, only has some measure of control over the drinker while inside the bartender's establishment and absolutely no control over that person once they leave the bar. Bartenders still abide by them—we have to—but, come on, Erin, don't you think the drinker has a bit of personal responsibility in our nightly give and take? Yeah, we can cut your drunk ass off, call you a cab, get you something to eat, give you water for the rest of the night, but if you still get behind the wheel or go on to another bar and drink yourself stupid again and then get behind the wheel ... well, legally it could be my problem, but, seriously, this reminds me of the whole "society made me do it" argument.

Yes, we who sling drinks are minor gods, but you don't have to go around boasting about how much ass you can get to everyone.
Eddie D.

Phone numbers don't necessarily translate into ass, Eddie.

An accountant is a "professional." A lawyer, a "professional." Even a sysadmin, a "professional," albeit usually a sad one. Someone who knows how to do something that a monkey could literally learn to do, not so much.
Mr. Finger

There are plenty of nights when I seriously could have used that prehensile tail, but somehow I think that if monkeys tended bar, a lot of drinks would come with fecal swizzle sticks.

How much do you tip when you go to McDonald's? They brought you food and drinks after all ...

Hey, if you can catch a solid buzz off a Big Mac, more power to ya.

I have put my time in tending bar over the years and I am both embarrassed and angered by the asinine conceit of this article.

Tony, one bartender to another, if you can honestly tell me that in your years of tending bar that you've never experienced any of this or felt this way, never complained about your job and basically went through your drink-slinging tenure in the manner of Job, then I'll announce to my readers that I'm a conceited asshole ... and then I'll nominate you for sainthood.

Bartenders are smarter than customers? Ever watch Woody in "Cheers?"

Ever hear of something called television? Oh, and don't forget to change Kitt's oil before you jet off on the Enterprise.

Who gives a shit, really. Shut up and get me a beer, loser.

Right after you shut up and bag my groceries.

Ryan Osterbeck's article about bartender myths is possibly the most pompous, arrogant piece of crap reading that has ever taken up my time.

Yet ... you continued to read it. There's a few doms in town who are always looking for new subs.

Anyone on this thread who is going to seriously alter their treatment/tipping of bartenders based on this article, I say to you: I am happy you believe you found justification for being a lame cheap fuck.

I think that about wraps things up. Thanks, Skitz!

Ryan, play it again and make it a double on the rocks!

I'll drink to that.

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