Why Are Bartenders Such Dicks?
The time has come to drop the attitudes behind the bar. I mean what is it, really, that makes bartenders think they can act like they’re in a separate caste from those on the other side of the stick? Even I experience it as a tattooed, skinny jean-wearing bartender myself when walking into certain establishments. You know the look you get; it’s half inconvenience, half contempt. The look that says, “Are you sure you’re in the right place?” How can an attitude so alienating to guests and so bad for business be so common?
Look, I get it. Not all guests are a joy to serve, not all guests will appreciate a well-crafted cocktail, and not all guests walk in at the most convenient time. But guess what? No one is forcing you to do this job. You can walk right out the front door whenever you’d like. You chose to do this job or fell into it, but you’re not stuck with it. So while we’re back here, why don’t we try and enjoy ourselves a bit? Let’s smile more, laugh more, interact with our guests more and just be friendlier and more approachable in general. Part of what has always held cocktail culture back is that it feels out of reach for some. Those who aren’t stylish, hip, or in-the-know would rather not be judged upon entering a bar and just take their business to the non-threatening chain restaurant down the street.
Think of how much more business we could drum up if we all acted a little more inviting in our dope-ass cocktail bars.
Isn’t that especially important these days when so many of our beloved haunts are closing? Lose the too-cool attitude and be a little more inviting. I’m not saying we need to act like high school Chick-fil-A employees here, but can’t we all agree that there’d be more people wanting a seat at the bar if that seat didn’t come with a large dose of arrogance with your Negroni?
Maybe we’re assholes because we didn’t fit into society anywhere else… like our brothers and sisters in the kitchen. We never fit into any other job (or never wanted to) so we ended up slinging drinks and taking shots after work. We adopted the Anthony Bourdain attitude that is a little dangerous and a little abrasive because we have a chip on our shoulder towards those in more traditional jobs. It’s only natural to feel slightly cooler than the people coming to you for a drink, because in most cases you know more about what they’re drinking than they do.
You see them drunk, you hear them tell stories to those around them. You see how they tip, how they act around the opposite sex. You request them an Uber, you hold onto their credit card when they forget it. It’s only natural to feel like at this point in life, even for an hour or so, you’re in charge.
There could be a hedge-fund billionaire sitting across from you, but I bet he damn sure doesn’t know how to make a Sazerac. He came to you, which puts you in command for that moment. All of these interactions with our guests give us an artificial sense of being above them. Night after night, you guide them along on a journey of drinking and eating. It’s your job to know more than they do about what they’re putting in their body, it’s only natural to feel like the boss. So knowing this, that must be half the battle, right?
Now that we can admit the problem, can we stop being arrogant jerks? With our tattoos, piercings, and underground Spotify playlists. I don’t know. I’d like to think that I’ve never been one to act like a pretentious ass behind the bar, but I’m sure at some point in time, probably when I was really slammed, I’ve convinced some guest otherwise. So this isn’t to call out a specific bar or bartender, it’s just a request for us to realize and acknowledge that sometimes, we can act a little too big for our britches, and that shit ain’t cool anymore. It comes off as corny these days. Being nice is in. Good service is in. So next time someone thanks you for their Ferrari shot, maybe answer with a smile and a “my pleasure.”
Let’s all agree to #BanPretentiousBartenders.