Behind the Bar
How Staffers Around the World Unwind After a Shift
Hospitality requires copious amounts of energy, both mental and physical. Come closing time, getting those thirsty guests en route to the street can be a masterful dance of etiquette (or you could always throw on any number of DJ-proven ditties to drive the point home). Once the last customer (regulars too!) has departed, only the team and the security cameras know what really goes on.
The degree of duties can range from grabbing the till and hitting the banquettes to scrubbing every inch of your station, but they always seem to fly by when you know what comes next. Maybe you’re the chronic opener who only has to restock and run, or you’re the powerhouse porter ripping up the mats, after a long night we all have our special ways to shift gears into ‘me’ time.
Nicholas Jarrett of The Saint, New Orleans, Louisiana
“The Saint is an overnight bar, more or less. We get off between 8 and 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings. But we enjoy our Sundays as well ... It's just they're ‘Saturundays.’ Less of ritual than a holiday that comes but once a week.”
Dane F. of Copenhagen, Denmark
“It's the end of the night; it's late, and the horizon is starting to change color. I just want to go home to bed, but there is normally one or two people that are not ready to leave yet. I’m not sure if they have nowhere to be or if there is problems at home but they just want one more beer and somewhere comfortable. I let them stay. I normally put on Sabbath and count the till. I pack up around them while they either talk to me or sit pensively drinking slowly. I catch myself thinking about where they are going to go when I finally ask them to leave. Riding home through a sleeping city in the cold is normally enough to regather my thoughts and make me cold enough to just want to climb into bed.”
Natalie Jacob of Dutch Kills, Long Island City, Queens, New York
“For last call I will most likely be listening to 'Closing Time' by Tom Waits. I make any last drink requests and start breaking down. I rarely make myself a cocktail at the end of the night, if I do it's a simple daiquiri or a beer and a shot of El Dorado 12. My coworkers and I will usually have a parting shot of Amaro as well. I like Cynar. I take a seat at the bar and enjoy the rest of my beer before making my journey back home to Jersey City.
If I get done before New Jersey last call, I like to rush back to Jersey City so I can make it to Barcade for a beer. Sometimes I go to a shitty dive called the Keyhole, where I order a neat pour of Brugal Anejo Rum. It's the only decent rum they have and I'm the only one who orders it. Then I go home and walk my dog Bowie.”
Adrian Johnson of Rockhouse Hotel, Negril, Jamaica
“My name is Adrian Johnson, and I am from a very relaxed community in Negril called Good Hope. I bartend and supervise at the beautiful boutique resort, Rockhouse Hotel. I enjoy entertaining our guests, chatting non-stop and serving amazing beverages. When I leave work, I spend most of my time relaxing and spending time with my wife and three children. Sitting back and quietly watching them play inspires me to learn and create new drinks, be innovative with colors and take risks with flavors.”
Roof Alexander of The Jane Hotel, New York, New York
“I don’t smoke anymore. But I do still have a ritualistic cigarette every night after closing down The Jane Ballroom. It reminds me of the former years in the city when you could smoke, and how everyone on staff would light up as soon as the last barfly stumbled out the door. We put on the music that we actually want to hear, the punk and hip hop that the DJs won't play anymore. Then everyone grabs their drink and vents about all the weird customers, the funny customers, the asshole customers, and especially the creepy customers. Once that’s out we all can move on with our other lives, waiting and ready to do it again the next night.”
Roberta Spanu of Maden Club and Planet One Beverage, Milan and Sardinia, Italy
“I had worked in an American bar for many years. So much work, so much research, but the effort paid off, as we had a great team. The shift was 'til three or four in the morning, and after we would go clubbing. We would have a beer, a chat, and just let off the adrenaline rush of a busy evening, but most of all get know each other, understand each other, and live with each other! Now I work mainly in management, but I see every day how things have changed. There is more individualism and less team spirit. After the shift everyone has their own business. The rituals have changed. But in my club I try to keep the ‘night magic’ alive that has always followed me, right from the beginning of my career.”
No matter what time zone you shake and stir in, clocking out is a special time. You feel tired, sure, but even if you have to wake up and do it all again, the sense of accomplishment and pride should be overwhelming. Hard work behind the bar comes with a side of human connection. And even when the going gets tough and the jerks get you down, there are always guests who value you and know how to show it.
Whether you do it for money or the love of the craft, sharing good times is key, however you achieve that. Just don’t forget to extend that courtesy to yourself, however you define good times.