Friday, April 8, 2011

Non-Fiction Friday: Balance as a Bartender

Written by Guest Writer, Ashley Sawyer

Look, being a cute girl and getting good tips is par for the course when working in a bar. I had the fortune, or rather misfortune, of working a morning shift in a small, rundown bar in an older area of Culver City. On the upside, even during the 7:00 am - 12:00 pm shift, I still had a great group of regulars who stopped in to see me and catch the occasional early football game. Most of these regulars were retired gentleman who used the bar as a place to catch up with former co-workers and enjoy a little of my youthful company. One of these gentlemen in particular, Bill, always flirted with me and left me a generous tip. 

I never took his advances seriously. I just thought he enjoyed riffing with a young twenty something to spice up his seventy something lifestyle. His wife had passed away a few years earlier and his kids where busy with their own lives. Bill used me as a touchstone to check-in with someone and as an activity to look forward to. Thankfully he never drank too much and enjoyed the socializing aspect of the bar scene more so than the drinking itself. Since he was rather tame, I too, genuinely liked chatting with him. 

One day, however, Bill seemed struck with a bit more courage than usual. He pressed me for my number and I did my best to strike the perfect balance of kind, but stern when I told him no, "we're just friends, here at the bar." This is a hard and disappointing balance to strike with many regulars who see you, the bartender, as a good friend. Because they are paying you tips, many regulars desire and even expect more intimacy. As a female, it's essential to strike that intimacy balance for safety's sake. 

When Bill left that morning he slipped me my tip. Normally it was always super generous, like $20.00 for a $4 beer. But that day it was even more special... he left me his card with his personal info and on the back, he scribbled "private number."  To my shock, the card accompanied a $100 bill.

My position never changed with Bill. As long as I was behind the bar, he could chat with me and I would serve him well. But despite his efforts, he finally understood that as soon as my shift was over, I was out the door without him or any other regulars from the bar. As tempting as it might be to let your guard down with friendly, generous regulars, we as female bartenders must never forget that this is a business and you can never really assume to know the patron's intentions. Always set your boundaries, even to the charming customers!


  1. Good job for standing your ground.

  2. Ashley- you handled that situation really well. Very uncomfortable, especially the money part of it. Did your non-response effect your friendship with him too much?

  3. Very good advice re: boundaries!

  4. Hey Ashley, good judgement there, you even got an amazing tip out of it! So true though for male or female, as soon as the shift finishes get out of there by yourself!