Dueling Bartenders

Dueling BartendersIt seems a post from the past (April 2006) has jumped to the forefront again and has brought with it more interesting comments, courtesy of Fark. The post was about an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle, about drinks bartenders hate to make. I basically responded to the article (Five Drinks Bartenders Hate to Make) in a way that seems to irritate some bartenders, and occasionally it generates some surly replies, similar to the “Fan Mail” diatribe posted a while ago. Today there are an additional 20, or so, responses. This time there are some good community counter-arguments, which I like. But most of them are still at the troglodyte level.

It’s funny how five simple drinks can irritate some bartenders so much. I also like the way that all these “super professional bartenders” like to fling insults at me for saying you can make these drinks behind a bar. Does Jamie Boudreau, Ryan Magarian or Dale DeGroff get insulted like this? I know Gary Regan does, so maybe I’m in good company.

I don’t necessarily blame these bartenders for believing what they do, I tend to focus my scorn on management. It seems many managers are cheap, so they under staff the bar and overwork the bartenders to the point where they can only open beer and make basic drinks. The short-sightedness of this should be completely obvious, but I’ll spell it out anyway.

The pay rate of one bartender ranges anywhere from $2 to $7 per hour. So in an eight-hour shift, the manager of a bar would have to pay them $36 (assuming the midpoint salary of $4.50). In the course of the night, if some of the commenting “super bartenders” sold 1000 drinks (which is theoretically only 2 drinks per minute) as they claim at just $3.50 per drink, that’s $3500. Therefore the labour cost is 1% of the bars expenses. That is downright cheap. Unless you have a business in a third world country there is absolutely no way you can get your costs that low. Obviously, this is a very loose approximation, so no accounting comments, please.

My point is that the cheap ass managers should add a few more bartenders to the payroll. I know this will never happen because bartenders know that with fewer of them behind the bar, the more money they earn through tips. Why split the tips four ways when you just split it in half. That mentality is what makes alcohol a drug and not something for social enjoyment.

In one of the new comments, the “bartender” mentioned that 600 people were served by 3 bartenders, which is why he’s a “super-star”. That’s a really bad ratio if the bartenders are trying to control over consumption. And please don’t underestimate the seriousness of alcohol overconsumption, lots of people die every day from drinking-related causes. Can I make that any clearer?

The other thing is that bartenders get paid great money. We can make a lot more than professionals like Engineers, Molecular Biologists and the like. So I don’t understand why all these bartenders complain. Actually, maybe I do understand. Many bartenders have only ever bartended, so they don’t realize how good they have it.

A Couple of Random Points

1. The idea of the surly bartender stems back to the days of prohibition. Back then bartenders were more or less drug dealers and if anyone threatened their “career” they’d get 86’d. Today it is a little different, so maybe we should dispatch with the angry bartender mentality.

2. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, bartenders think that speed behind the bar is the only thing that matters, but they are dead wrong. Working efficiently is good, but just because you can work at a MacDonald’s level doesn’t mean your drinks are good.

This one topic has vaulted the Art of Drink to the number one spot on the Blog Top Sites Food and Drink category. Controversy brings people out, and hopefully, a few will stick around and continue to read the Art of Drink and the couple dozen other great cocktail and spirited related blogs out there.