Last night was insane. Everyone behind the bar was totally surprised because it was Sunday night, then Antonio pointed out that the next day would be Labor Day, so, yeah, no one had work and everyone was drinking the night away. By seven all 15 bar stools were taken and Antonio and I were so busy we hardly had time to look at or acknowledge each other. Both of us had our heads down, making drinks, cracking open beers, or looking to customers to ask for their order.
I don’t mind it, though. It makes the shift go by so quickly, and of course, I made bank! I realize that I get into a nice flow when it’s fast paced that I can never get to when it’s slower. In fact, sometimes I feel less willing to work when we have a slow night. I went up to the hostess stand after we were closed and she told me that we had done close to 650 covers! Insane. On typically “busy” Sunday dinner shifts we do, maybe, 400. I laughed, shocked, and she laughed too. She looked flustered, her hair was frizzy and her face was gleaming with sweat. It must have been a nightmare to run around the restaurant and patio seating all of those people. I’m feeling thankful the bar is only about 15 feet of space I have to walk back and forth through, that’s for sure!
It was definitely a fun night for Antonio, and me even if it wasn’t for her. The customers at our bar were friendly (although lively) and they weren’t super needy either, which was surprising. It was around 8:30 that people began lining up behind the customers that were seated to order drinks. They didn’t have a table or a reservation and were waiting to obtain either, so they shouted over the hustle and bustle of the restaurant, “Beefeater Martini, please!” or “Can I look at a menu?” There was no in between.
It was around this point that I noticed the dining room on the right was full and the lounge area on the left was full, and from what I could tell the outside patio was too, that’s when Antonio and I got flooded with drink orders from the servers and cocktail waitresses. Then there was hardly time to interact with the customers. Bartenders choose to work differently. Antonio tends to check in with people at the bar that make eye contact with him. He’ll be shaking a tumbler or mopping up a mess and he will always break from it and go up to someone at the counter who looks like they need attention and ask them, “Doing okay?”
I’m different. I prefer that you flag me down. I’m busy. I’ve got things going. If a customer of mine really needs me, I should hope that they’d catch my attention somehow.
However, I also know some people don’t feel comfortable shouting across a bar or find it “rude”. I get it. So I try to check in from time to time, as well. Sometimes Antonio will help me with my guests, and I appreciate that. Sometimes we tip pool. We’ve been working together behind the bar for over four years now, so we know how the each of us likes to work and respect one another. That’s one of the major reasons I love to work at Esperanza, and busy nights aren’t a headache because the staff just grooves with one another, you know? Bartending isn’t always like that at any or every restaurant or bar. Psh. Trust me, I know. I’ve been doing this since I was old enough to, to help myself through college, and now to help myself through grad school – a total of almost seven years!
Sometimes it kills me. But it’s the busy nights that kick my ass that I always appreciate. They remind me why I do this job to even begin with – it’s hard work but it’s rewarding when you close up at the end of the night, count your cash, and go home to two sleepy cats and a warm bed.