Jan 2011 18

by Laurelin

I always thought that my job in the service industry was a sign of failure. All the people I know from high school and college and well, life, are all married with kids, working these 9-5 salary jobs with benefits and things like pinstripe pantsuits and heels. Not me. I pay for my benefits through the state, I sleep past 11 AM almost every day, I don’t go into work until the sun goes down and I wear jeans, a black shirt and filthy sneakers every day. Bartending is MY full time job, but honestly, sometimes I just feel plain lazy.

However, as the economy failed and I watched every job but my own go down the tubes I felt pleased; my “career” was flourishing and there was no chance that people would ever stop drinking. I started feeling lucky — in the world of liquor, people drink when they’re happy and they drink when they’re sad. No matter what the occasion, people drink. Bartending means serious job security.

However, things change in a heartbeat. A bar is run just like any other company, and when things go sour internally the company is bound to crash and burn. I have been in the unfortunate position to have front row seats to the epic demise of my bar. It’s going down, and I can honestly say that the staff doesn’t even care to fight for it. Pour on the gasoline and take a picture, because garbage burns fast, and it stinks.

It wasn’t always this way; I will always think of most of my old co-workers as my Boston family. In the beginning, going into work made me smile. I loved helping people, loved seeing new faces and having them come back and become regulars. The bar scene is something truly amazing in this city, and to work at a place that was as tight as my bar, you can’t help but feel bad for people who have to go into an office every day.

There are downsides to working in the service industry. You see the same people day in and day out, and friends or not, management is going to have to put you in your place on occasion. Gossip runs like wildfire and no secrets are safe. Managers sleep with staff, bartenders sleep with door guys, hostesses sleep with door guys, waitresses hook up with bartenders – and everyone knows before the night is even close to over. No one does inventory, staff get incredibly drunk while working and sooner or later, someone is going to start wondering why the bar is hemorrhaging money. The reason might be on the bottom of that bottle of Jameson we keep passing around – fill up another twelve shots and do it up – on the house.

I have more than a few fond memories from this place that I no longer call home. I met a few of my best girlfriends, including the girl I plan to move to San Diego with. I have laughed with these girls, cried with them, fought with them and been all around just lucky to have been a part of something so special. I had a drink with my ex-boyfriend before we got together and remember sitting next to him and telling him I thought he looked familiar. I sat with him and had a beer and remember smiling when I left. I sat in the exact seat two years later and sipped a Grey Goose dirty martini after we broke up. That bar has seen me grow up.

I have had pockets overflowing with cocktail napkins with phone numbers and had customers try to tip me with drugs. I have smooshed cockroaches bigger than my thumbnail on the bar, seen chicken heads covered in buffalo sauce accidentally served to tables, seen managers and staff so drunk that we can do nothing but tuck them in a booth under a pile of jackets or try to stop the bleeding when they’ve fought with the curb out front and lost. I have seen girl fights and guy fights, and with one hug, all is forgotten, sort of.

I’ve celebrated hundreds of birthdays and made an uncountable amount of money. I have been so weeded with tables and bar customers, witnessed sports games where Boston fans are just going wild, and it was all I could do to hold back tears because I was so proud to be a part of history, trying to never forget the feeling in the air as the Red Sox, Patriots, or Celtics won titles. I waitressed, hostessed, bartended and ran up and down the stairs with more Bud Light cases more times than I can count. I ran out of ice for two hours on New Year’s Eve, and was so busy that I had people happily chugging warm SoCo lime because I had a smile and was working as hard as I could with what I had. I put my heart and soul into that bar, but something changed, and soon we knew we had a sinking ship on our hands, and there was nothing any of us could do about it.

The management does what they can to save themselves, and family or not, we as staff are as disposable after a few years as we were on our first night. The owner let his staff know half of us were let go by simply taking some bartenders off the schedule, a clear cut “fuck you” to some of the longest employed bar staff. They came into work their last night and were met with sideways glances instead of the usual smiles. No one wanted to say anything, so no one did. Staff morale dropped lower than I have ever seen at any bar, and we all started talking about where else we could work. No one thought it would ever get this bad, soon another five servers had been let go, and our family was slowly falling apart.

As for me, upon walking in today I was informed I had been caught giving away a free beer during a previous shift, and that I was one of the reasons the bar was losing so much money. I was going to have to be let go. This was an untrue accusation, and I had a flash of everything I‘ve witnessed, everything I have done for them, and I knew that in that one second none of it mattered. It was time for me to go, as though the past two years had never even happened. For some reason, it almost made me laugh how quickly a place I would lay down my reputation for could dispose of me.

“Wipe that smirk off your face,” the owner said.

“Wipe up your bar,” I said as I walked out. “It’s a mess.”