We asked Lucy Eason of The Acoustic Lounge, Poynton, to share with us her journey of stepping up and taking the realms at the head of the ship for the first time ever.
By Lucy Eason
Within the first hour of being told I was the new manager of The Acoustic Lounge, I felt that my ideas were previously being suppressed and now I had the freedom to express them. I received a phone call from the owner a week before Christmas which stopped me in my tracks. He asked me if I was ready to step up to be a manager in two weeks’ time. I had two weeks to prepare for my most challenging, yet fulfilling role to date.
Luckily for me, the quiet period for bars in January meant I was able to digest the whole scenario and work out exactly was what required for the position. Every aspect of the job came with benefits and difficulties, but authority was, in my opinion, the most testing aspect of all.
I lost and gained staff throughout the months and at the start very few adjustments were made to the business. There was minimal progression until a regular customer said to me “I’ve never in my life seen someone so passionate about their job. You should be so proud of yourself. Where’s the manager I want to tell them”. I think that’s when I recognised the importance of what I was doing. I wasn’t being assertive to anyone; I was doing the jobs I didn’t want to have to tell anyone to do. Telling someone who’d been in the business as long as you have yourself to go and clean inside the glass wash with a toothbrush isn’t as easy as you’d imagine. When that customer said “Where’s your manager – I want to tell them how good you are”, was where the art of learning, designation and authority began.
As time went on, the respect from my staff increased and there was a more obvious flow to the business. More and more cocktails were being created, I was dealing with the accounts side of the business and I’d clamped down on the general rules. I didn’t have an assistant manager at the time, although my colleague who’d been there as long as I had was fulfilling the role to an exceptional standard. She went to live abroad for a few months so that’s when it became even more challenging.
I could trust her with the bar and I’d go and lock up, but with her being away, I never actually finished work. The first time I left the bar and put a member of staff in charge was when I went on holiday. I couldn’t relax at all. I had the CCTV on my phone, checking they were working and everything was in order etc. I turned it on once and everyone was sat down mid shift on their phones. It sounds petty, but imagine walking into a bar and there’s no one there to serve you. Everyone’s on their phones and having a nice little chill out. What a shit manager they must have! Yeah, exactly.
When I returned, my interpretation of the role as a manager changed and I acted upon it. I wrote a letter explaining how disappointed I was and how things were going to change. Since then, I’ve gained the authority I needed, without being an utter bitch (I hope). But that didn’t mean it was smooth sailing from there. Controlling your staff is something that comes with experience, making mistakes and advice from the correct people. Treating everyone the same is impossible. That’s difficult to learn as it is, but dealing with some customers is honestly one of the most degrading and shocking things I’ve ever had to see happen or experience myself.
Something you can take from working in this industry is that you learn a hell of a lot about people. You can’t work in a bar if you don’t have people skills. This leads me onto my management skills with staff members. I may have to be assertive with one member of staff, but completely laid back with another to ensure something will get done. That’s something you learn with time! Dealing with customer’s ranges from having a ten minute conversation with a woman who will tell you about her neighbour’s cousins auntie’s friend’s mate who also managed a bar like you, or trying to explain to the man who orders 11 Wray and Nephews that it is 63% and he is already rather intoxicated so it’s probably not that wise. Most customers co-operate…to an extent. My idea of co-operation has been completely altered. I’m quite happy with a group saying “Aw fuck you, I’ll go next door” when they’re all 16 and pissed off that I’ve ID’d them. That’s co-operation for me. Fantastic! They didn’t threaten to smash the windows, what a lovely group of lads. People don’t like being told they can’t have something. It’s human nature, so I totally get that customers aren’t always happy with the decision’s which are made
A bit of a downfall about being a manager is that if a customer is rude to a member of staff, it automatically becomes your issue. I’d prefer it this way because I know it’s being dealt with, but it becomes tedious when you feel like that kid who always gets involved in the arguments at school. That’s sometimes how the customer sees it. “And what the fuck’s it got to do with you?” They shout. Well considering you’ve said you got dust in your eye from the ceiling and you’re going to shut the business down for it, it’s suddenly my issue and not something I’d like my 16-year-old glass collector to have to deal with (that was a genuine complaint and the gentleman who said this has since been in to apologise and admit he was trying to get some compo). People don’t see the side when staff get verbally abused, boston tins almost launched at their head, cleaning up sick etc. And I know that many other bartenders have experienced similar things, but still: you go home, go to sleep, get up and prepare for the next shift.
Every job has its difficulties and even though I’ve focused a lot on the negative points of bartending, it still doesn’t override the refreshing, rewarding feeling you get when you’ve made a customer smile, or even better made their day a little brighter with just a five minute conversation. Investing a little bit of your time in someone when they don’t believe you have the time for them really does generate a priceless feeling.
I’m so proud of my bar, my staff, and myself. It’s quite an amazing journey to see a bar develop into what was once a big messed up establishment to overhearing people speaking about the quality music, faultless venue and welcoming staff when I’m just out and about somewhere else. Not many things beat seeing my group of staff sit down after an overwhelming, intense eight hour shift with a massive smile and a gin and tonic talking about the night and the stories. It’s still hard, and I’ll always have a challenge whilst working there. I’ll make sure of it! The Acoustic Lounge came from the owner going to a little bar in Fuerteventura and saying “I want something like this”, and here we are almost five years later and I can safely say: I’m managing the best live music venue in Cheshire and I love my job beyond belief.
Lucy has just reached her first year of management and refused us permission to use a picture of her face because: “It’s cringe, innit?”
You can find her behind the bar or in the office at The Acoustic Lounge, Poynton. @AcousticPoynton
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