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The Inaugural Today Is My Friday | Becoming a Bartender

Welcome to Today is My Friday. My goal is to entertain you with stories from over 20 years of bartending!

I'll explain the title of my blog for those who have never worked in the service industry. One of the major drawbacks to our profession is that if you're in the industry, you rarely have weekends off. So in theory, if your days off are Tuesday and Wednesday, then Monday would be considered your Friday.

I don't believe most bartenders can trace the exact time they first bartended, but I can. It was on MLK Day in 1991. I had knocked around aimlessly in the1980's working in different industries, and one day I saw a table set up for a restaurant that was soon to open. I was always told I would make a good bartender, so I asked the recruiter if they were hiring bartenders.

"Do you have experience?" he asked.
"No." I answered.
"You have to have experience to bartend." I was told.
"How would I get experience?" I asked.
"You have to be a bartender," he answered.

He then told me that nobody is ever hired as a bartender. You start as a busboy, food runner, or bar back and then just worm your way in. He then told me he had none of those positions open, but he was looking for a weekend dishwasher. He said take it, and just work your way in. I hadn't been a dishwasher since I was 14 (a blog for another time) but, thought, why not. If I don't like it I'll just quit.

So for the next year I worked every position in the kitchen from dishwasher to prep to line cook. All the while I kept asking to be a bartender, but seemed to be getting nowhere until that fateful MLK holiday.

Monday at lunch was typically a slow affair, but this Monday with everyone being off, we were quickly swamped with people as soon as we opened. The day bartender had the bar and the lounge to take care of, since it was typically slow enough to manage both. Not this day. The Host was told to seat people in the lounge in order to avoid making people have to wait. The Bartender was not happy about this, and told the Host not to seat him anymore tables or he would punch him in the face. So yes you guessed it, the Host decided that was an invitation to seat more people in the lounge. But here's where things get really good. The Bartender was a man of his word, so when the Host sat more people in the lounge, the Bartender ran over and punched the Host in the face. The Manager immediately fired the bartender, and then asked if any servers were willing to bartend - They all refused. I was in the kitchen working on the line when the Manager ran in with a Bartender shirt and informed me that I was now a Bartender. I was standing there in a state of shock.

"You have 10 seconds to decide if you want to be a Bartender."

So, I put the shirt on, jumped behind the bar, and proceeded to attempt in some way to be a Bartender. I was totally lost and struggled mightily trying to keep up. The Manager was helping me, but I felt like I was caught in a swirling current that was just carrying me along.

Eventually, it slowed down, another Bartender came in early and I was free to go. I went home thinking I did terribly. The next day I showed up for my shift and was informed that I was going to be the new day Bartender. Some servers complained that it wasn't fair.

"I asked all of you yesterday if you would be willing to Bartend. You all said no. Andrew said yes. He's the bartender now."

And that's how I became a Bartender.

Stay tuned for more Today is My Friday stories!

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