When you leave bartending you get this sense of a “New Chapter”. You get the sense that your journey is now heading on to bigger and better things. I wrote a piece on what to expect when you leave the industry, and it was mostly written in jest with the aim of gaining a few laughs about the downward spiral which your life takes when you no longer stand behind that fabled wall of security that is the bar. I had no idea that some of it would ring true.
As I’m sure most people might know, I stepped away from the industry in terms of working behind the bar. I was still very much involved with the business, going to training sessions, networking (pronounce: “drinking a lot”) and generally trying to keep my toes splashing around in the gigantic ocean that is hospitality. I have never written anything from the blind perspective of someone who has never stepped foot behind the magical drinks well (pronounce: “BuzzFeed”), nor have I ever written a word without double checking that I am at least correct in some aspect or that my experiences are valid (pronounce: “Not wanting to get sued or look like an idiot”).
There’s recently been a void in my life of which I had no idea what used to fill it. It was only recently that I discovered what it was.
It’s all very well thinking that once you step away from it that you’ll now start to prosper and do what you were truly meant to do, but once you actually get to that point it can be hard to move forward and somehow you realise that you can’t completely function without bartending. I will always stand by the belief that bartending is a career and should be given more respect than it currently gets, going back to it has reaffirmed that belief for me.
I’ve no doubt in my mind that I am suited for different things – I can write better than I can bartend (and I tend bar extremely well…you do the arrogant math *wink face*), but I decided to go back to bartending (part-time, I actually really do enjoy writing). The initial idea was to make extra money, but it’s strange once you get back into it. It’s like getting back with an ex-partner: You can remember why you broke up, but a dibble dabble here and there brings all of that commitment free excitement rushing back through your veins and you enjoy the ride for all it’s worth.
You’re banging out the cocktails left right and centre and it’s like you never left: another shot with that couple at the end of the bar, launching playful insults at your co-worker and mocking TGI-Fridays bartenders (it’s a joke, ffs). You start to wonder why you ever left… four seconds before your legs start to hurt like fuck.
Everything you ever loved about bartending suddenly becomes obvious again. This is what bartending is about. I can wholeheartedly say that the people who proclaim that bartending “isn’t a proper job” are just downright miserable in their own (or they’re a Tory… it’s a joke, ffs).
Without sounding like I’ve reached an epiphany in my life and trying to be all Ghandi-like: when you leave the bartending world, you leave so much more than a cocktail shaker behind.
The more obvious yet not that obvious aspect of leaving bartending is the sheer decrease in volume of your social circle. You realise that you spent most of your time with your work colleagues and they slowly turned into your closest friends and when you weren’t working you were busy in other people’s bars. Once you step away from that livelihood your friends still remain in their bars and now work completely opposite hours than you do: they’re asleep when you’re awake and you’re asleep when they’re awake. That contrast in hours makes it ridiculously difficult to maintain the same friendships you once had.
The thrill of making drinks is also something that I’ve re-discovered as an actual thing. Taking pride in the drink you’ve just created can sometimes become specially reserved for a cocktail competition, but it exists even when you make someone a particularly good gin and tonic at half three on a Saturday morning and I feel that’s something that can becoming swallowed up when it’s week-in week-out and you start to fatigue… and that was something I’d forgotten about or not experienced in a very long time.
Facilitating someone and making their night a great one is always something I’ve experienced. I performed stand up comedy on the Manchester circuit for around three years a couple of years ago and before that I’d been in numerous shows and pantomimes etc etc. The point I’m getting at is that when you perform well, people feel like you’ve benefitted to their evening of entertainment and will acknowledge that. That feeling is one of enormous pride and dare I say it: extremely flattering to the ego. It’s not far off the same feeling you get when someone is drunk at the end of your bar and tells you that they’ve had one of their best nights out in a long time and they personally thank you for it. Sure, you take it with a little pinch of salt because: Drunk, and there are a lot of professions where people are complimented on their skills, but when you’re complimented on something which you enjoy doing, no-matter the profession, it’s still arguably immensely heart-warming.
I know that some of my observations and straight to the point words about the hospitality industry, in particular the bartending aspect, haven’t always gone down too well with a lot of people, but I’ve never said anything I haven’t believed in and I’ve taken flack when I’ve said something that I perhaps didn’t make clear enough or when i’ve been part of the guilty party (like the snobby bartenders who scoff all the time: I used to scoff at everyone like it was the only thing I had in my vocabulary).
Heading back into bartending reminded me of why we started this website and why I have such strong views on the positive and negative aspects that happen day-to-day: I love this industry (I’m not saying I love it more than anyone else does, I’m sure that there are so many more people that adore it a lot more than I do) and I want it to prosper more than anything. I have my gripes with the general public like most people do, but at the end of it all I unequivocally love bartending. For the moment I’m extremely happy to be able to say that I’m a writer, but for as long as I can physically manage it I’m staying in the bartending world. I just enjoy it.
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