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7 Things That Can Go Wrong During a Bar Shift

by Melissa Allen Sep 4, 2018

Bartending has a lot of moving parts and some of them are bound to malfunction from time to time. While some complications are unavoidable, others are worthing trying to dodge. Here are seven things that can go wrong during a bar shift.

1. Unruly patrons

Customers are the hardest part of your job. As a bartender, you expect to deal with your share of drunk and disorderly behavior, but it’s still uncomfortable every time. Whether it’s a drunk guest looking like they may get sick, a creepy patron making inappropriate comments, or customers that think the bar bathroom is their own personal coke den, all bartenders must occasionally reprimand, take care of, and/or 86 bar guests.

2. A cut finger at the start of your shift

Cutting your finger at the start of a bar shift can ruin your night. Band-aids and rubber finger protectors sabotage your grip — bottles and glasses will be slipping out of your hands all night. If you forgo the band-aid, lemon and lime juice will work their way into your cut, stinging like crazy.

3. Computer system crashes

This is surprisingly common, especially in older bars with outdated POS systems. When your computers are down, you can lose the ability to print checks, run credit cards, even play music, depending on your bar’s set-up. This can be catastrophe mid-way through a busy shift.

4. Missing deliveries

The liquor delivery never came. Or someone forgot to order limes. Or your most popular beer is on backorder. These things happen all the time, but they’re a crappy way to start a shift. Good luck spending your night explaining why you’re out of rosé on a summer Saturday.

5. You forget a cocktail spec.

A fairly minor issue for an experienced bartender (usually you can google the answer or check the bar’s recipe book), but it can really throw off new bartenders. As a rookie bartender, you’ve spent hours memorizing drink recipes and practicing your technique, so when you forget a spec, it deflates your confidence. Instead of looking up the answer, often new bartenders will make something up so they don’t look stupid. But the one thing worse than looking stupid is a shitty Negroni.

6. You get too drunk while working.

It’s an occupational hazard of the bar industry, you must learn your limits if you want to drink on the job. More bartenders get fired for this offense than anything else. If you realize mid-shift you’ve gotten a little too drunk, you can usually course correct with coffee and water. But the problem is when you don’t realize it and keep going over the cliff. Pray you’ve got friends working that night or a chill manager to cover you.

7. Broken glass near your ice bin

At bars, glasses break. Somehow this always seems to happen right at the busiest time in your shift when you’re fast approaching the weeds. If the glass breaks directly over your ice bin, you have no choice — you must burn all your ice and start over, which sucks. If a glass breaks anywhere in the vicinity of your ice bin, you’ll take a split second to examine your options. Do you really need to burn your ice? But then, the image of a bar guest swallowing a piece of glass flashes in your mind and you’ll burn your cursed ice.

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