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7 Things Bartenders Learn From Working Holidays

by Melissa Allen Nov 26, 2018

For some bartenders, it’s a huge sacrifice to work on holidays, and for others, it’s a welcome excuse to skip out on family drama. Regardless of where you stand, all bartenders must pay their dues and clock in for a holiday or two. Here are seven lessons bartenders have picked up from working holidays.

1. Prepare for the strange.

Around holidays, there is a dramatic redistribution of clientele. Most of the “normals” go on vacation, visit family, or host parties, so you’re left with a blend of service industry people, tourists, and weirdos. Social interactions take on a different rhythm. It’s all very David Lynch.

2. You must emotionally distance yourself.

When you know you’re going to be working on a holiday, it’s important to mentally treat it like any other day. Turn your phone off — it’s best to avoid potential FOMO. Working holidays isn’t as bad if you approach it with a “well, we’re stuck here, but let’s make the most of it” vibe. Once you start jonesing for eggnog and It’s a Wonderful Life, you’re a goner.

3. It will still get emotional.

That being said, holidays still trigger emotions, often unexpectedly, and there’s only so much you can control. Bar guests will run the gamut from uptight and stressed out to cutting way too loose. It’s your job to help counteract the holiday blues and to oversee the bacchanals. Add to it your own emotional roller coasters, as well as those of your co-workers’, and odds are that you or someone you know will end up crying over their beer by the end of the night.

4. Deep bonds are forged in the holiday trenches.

Few things bond co-workers like sharing a drink at a shitty dive bar after a slammed holiday shift. Like it or not, your co-workers are your family.

5. You will piss off loved ones.

No matter how long you work in the service industry, your mom will never fully understand why you couldn’t get your Christmas shift covered. Boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, best friends, and roommates will take turns chewing you out for missing birthdays and bridal showers. Try your best to make every other invite, but at the end of the day, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

6. Every restaurant or bar should close one day a year.

Thanksgiving or Christmas are good options, but it could be another day, depending on the traffic patterns of the bar. Owners may lose some money, but it’s worth it for staff morale. Perhaps, pick your slowest day of the year and close for a staff party. There’s something very special about being able to spend time with your co-workers when no one has to work. And when you spend your life serving others, it’s essential to take time to honor the work that you do.

7. It’s feast or famine.

Are you a bartender at a sports bar on Valentine’s or a bespoke cocktail spot on Super Bowl Sunday? Depending on the holiday, your bar will either be slammed or empty, and that’s just the nature of things.

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