1. Major sporting events
Whether it is the World Cup or the Super Bowl, bartenders dread working game shifts. If you are at the right bar, it can mean great money, but also permanent hearing loss from shouting sports fans ordering their fifth pitcher of Bud Light. And all those air horns.
2. Broken ice machines
Ice machines break down — it’s inevitable. But it always seems to happen on busy summer weekends when guests are chugging ice waters by the pint-full. After a desperate series of calls to the repair company, a bar back is usually sent out to beg for ice from neighboring bars. And it’s always shitty ice.
3. Sticky bottles
It’s just the worst. Bartenders — wipe down that simple syrup.
4. Having to work on Fourth of July.
Every year some bartenders draw the short straw and have to work on Fourth of July. Unless you work in a vacation town, this is the slowest shift of the year. Like watching paint dry slow. Which means plenty of time to look at all those Instagram photos of your friends having the best day ever. The saving grace? A regular might bring you some leftovers from their BBQ.
5. Warm kegs
It’s bartender 101 — if a keg is low, pull a back-up in the walk-in refrigerator to chill. But sometimes, you forget to check. Or the shift before you forgot to check. Either way, it always happens on busy nights when you go to change the keg on your most popular beer and realize the backup keg is warm! Your manager is pissed off, guests can’t get what they want, and you just feel stupid.
6. Shipments of bad fruit
Mottled limes, rock-hard lemons, droopy mint leaves… nothing looks worse than a beautifully prepared cocktail with a sad garnish.
7. The “Are you still open? We’re around the corner!” phone call 15 minutes to close.
Sometimes it is better to not answer the phone.
8. The mid-shift lull
Like the calm before the storm. As soon as you see the bar empty out mid-shift, you begin to brace yourself. You know it’s going to happen. You just don’t know when. But it always happens: a second rush of guests at exactly the same time. You will be in the weeds, there will be no flow or rhythm to the service, you just have to breathe deep and accept it.
9. Cutting twists.
Whether you use a Swiss peeler or a paring knife, you will cut yourself at some point.
10. Your ex walking into your bar with a date.
You’ll play it off like it’s cool, you’ll even buy them a round or two, but it won’t be cool.
11. The Saturday night DOH visit.
Periodically, restaurants and bars must get inspected by the Department of Health. While understandable in theory, a DOH visit means a frantic scramble for bartenders, servers, managers, and kitchen staff. And often a halting of service during the inspection. As inspection time approaches, the anxiety builds because the DOH rarely visits at a convenient time. It always seems to be a packed Saturday night at 9 PM.
12. Full moons
Okay maybe doctors and nurses get this fear too, but full moons combined with alcohol mean a messy night ahead.