Freeman
Freeman

Bars are wonderful places, and they're staffed by more than just Moe Szyslak from Moe's Tavern.

I've worked in the service industry since I turned 20, which doesn't seem like that long ago, but it's pretty long ago. Last week, we talked about owners, managers, cooks, bouncers and deejays. Today, we'll cover the people actually pouring and serving drinks.

Bartenders: Everybody wants them to know their name, drink and face. They're the star of the show and the most important workers in the bar ... at least in their minds. They reign in the service industry world. People always look to them first for free drinks, free shots, free beers or free slumber parties with naked exercise. Tip nicely, and she may pour your next drink heavily. Tip like a tool or annoy her, and you may end up paying for every single milliliter while being served last.

Mixologists (ugh, I hate that word) don't just shake cocktails and look good. They schmooze, keep eyes on who's too drunk to serve, choose who gets a free drink, try not to lose their cool as a customer pays with coins, do lots of math, instantly pull up drink recipes, suggest the best late-night restaurants and know somebody who knows somebody who has that thing you're looking for.

Barkeeps make more money than anybody, sometimes even more than the owner. A bartender's wage depends on the night, customers, establishment and how much they're allowed to steal.

For my first service industry job, I waited tables. I sucked severely, mostly because my eating habits are so simple I never thought to bring salt and pepper for breakfasters or cream and sugar for coffee drinkers. Needless to say, I didn't last long.


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Cocktail waitresses at your favorite pub usually make almost as much as bartenders, but their jobs are harder. They're taking drink orders, looking pretty, carrying trays through crowds, dealing with skeevy pick-up artists and pretending to like their customers — all while wearing high heels and skimpy dresses.

Finally, there's a secret worker who does just about everything: the barback. This unsung hero carries stuff, fixes stuff, cleans stuff, figures out stuff, changes kegs, refills beer coolers and, in a pinch, will fight/pour drinks/wait tables. A barback needs to know what every machine, tube and drain does and when the backups of backups are going to run out. He needs to prepare for any type of disaster, party or slump.

He doesn't have the option to steal money like bartenders or waitresses, but since he restocks the booze, he could probably sneak out an entire liquor cabinet.

Barbacks typically do more physical labor than all other employees combined. They carry cases of beer, kegs, ice, trash and whatever else is heavy. They make about 25 percent of the bartenders' tips. So why the hell would somebody want this job? Well, it's just a step away from being a bartender — and then you make serious cash.

All bar employees deal with customers, long hours, random pay and an unstable employment. A big benefit is that you walk home with cash from tips. A big downside is that you need to pay taxes on those tips. Haha. Just kidding. Everybody lies when it comes to tips, unless you're bragging to other service industry people.

Read more Freeman: coloradodaily.com/columns. Stalk him: comfyconfines.wordpress.com