From The Bar ~ A Bar Manager Story…

Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon In The Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…


The actual running of a small bar is usually done by the owner or his Designated Lieutenant known as “The Bar Manager,” usually the Senior Bartender.

Traditionally, the duties of The Bar Manager” include hiring, training and firing of Crew, scheduling waitresses and bartenders.  In that capacity the The Bar Manager was expected to be responsible for covering not only their bartending shift but also covering for emergency shifts, and getting sick or vacationing bartender’s shifts managed intelligently. The Bar Manager also had to oversee inventory and ordering.  It was The Bar Manager’s duty was to oversee special projects as well as to drop in on other shifts to see to it that the duty bartender is performing up to snuff and all needs are fulfilled.

The Bar Manager is expected to keep the Pour Cost down.

At The Bar, The Owner’s (referred to as T.O. by the customers and this missive) management was somewhat scattered.

T.O. left most of the actual running of the bar to several people.  I was in charge of the Waitressing Crew and looking back on it I think I may have been given that job not as a personal triumph but as a headache relief.  There is a certain amount of people skill required to oversee a crew of women.  In any case I had to schedule the waitress crew and keep the petty disagreements to a minimum.

Eventually I also had to hire and schedule the bands, staff the door and sound man and be sure that band calendars, mailing lists and free advertising were in place.

The bookkeeper oversaw purchasing and accounting.
T.O. usually hired the bartenders but firing any of the crew usually fell to me.

The bartender scheduling was usually assigned according to seniority and the rule with them was that if they were sick or needed time off it was up to them to arrange to have their shift covered.

I think T.O. disliked having a designated Bar Manager to avoid egotistical problems and infighting.  On the other hand, he didn’t like having to deal with petty details of running a bar either.

So we didn’t have a Bar Manager.  That’s the way it was.  And some saw this as a vacuum waiting to be filled.  After all, who ever heard of a bar that didn’t have a Bar Manager?

That vacuum should be filled by the one who wanted a little power, of course.  “It should be myself appointed King”

There was always someone wanting to be King.

“If T.O. would make me Bar Manager I’d show ya how a bar should be run.” was the mantra of the Ambitious.

T.O. would try this one…that one…An exercise in futility, actually because somehow his Bar Managers tended to work less, drink more but somehow spend less time at the bar  than  before they gained the exalted title.

Here we must introduce, Sam, the star of this little morality tale.

He was a good, but not spectacular, bartender.  He pulled his shifts and otherwise was not a troublemaker.  He was not particularly good looking so male customers did not look at him as a bird dog, a threat or challenge to the pursuit of womanflesh.  Not being particularly tall or muscled he was not intimidating.  Women did not dislike him but neither did they seek his company.  He bit his nails severely and his hands felt overly soft in a handshake.  Top this with thick glasses and you had a person who did not draw attention to himself.  He was almost perfectly neutral.

For some reason, possibly the description just listed, Sam started talking about a Promotion.

“The Bar needs a Manager” Sam said to me one night.

“Izzat so?” said I, having an unseen eye roll.  “You think we should advertise for one?”

“No,” Sam went on to say, “T.O. needs to appoint someone Bar Manager.”

At this particular time everything seemed to be running fairly well so I waited…

“It should be obvious to anyone who the manager should be.” said Sam.

I was about to ask him who he had in mind when, like a psychic, he read my thoughts and provided an answer:

“It should be me!” Sam said.

“I hadn’t heard T.O. say anything about hiring or appointing a manager.” I said.

Sam had it all worked out.  “Well, he needs one and it would be good for business if he made me Manager.  I’m gonna tell him I’ll quit if he doesn’t make me Manager.”

The new Bar Manager would have an appreciation for the Funner Things that life had to offer the Rounder and Sam campaigned Mightily to have T.O. make him Bar Manager.

He got the job.  T.O. figured this guy would not be plagued by girlfriend problems and he wasn’t pugnacious either.  Had a lot of bartending experience and Sam had even had put in some time in a deli.  Our kitchen enterprise wasn’t doing all that spectacularly at that time and, as we shall see, T.O. had some ideas about putting the new Bar Manager to work to perhaps integrating The Bar and the kitchen franchise to everyone’s advantage…

T.O. left the waitresses in my control however which dashed any hopes Sam may have had for having a harem but he was satisfied.  He, Sam, was Bar Manager.

There were a few adjustment problems, however.

Sam, in true Bar Manager fashion, started drinking a bit more when he was off duty and started getting into the habit of wanting to buy his friend’s drinks by way of the P.R. key, the comping key on the register.  The P.R. key is for public relations.  Using the P.R. key meant T.O. was paying for the drink.  Giving his product away.  Overuse of the P.R. key tended to make for a high Pour Cost and that, of course, meant there was less profit.

Since he was now Bar Manager it was difficult for the duty bartender to say no to his insistence that the P.R. key be used for his and his friends drinks.  To her credit, Tiffany, the main daytime bartender, refused to do this.  The use of the P.R. key was observed by the bookkeeper and she had no way of telling if, on Tiffany’s shift, it was Tiff doing the comping or Sam.  But since it was Tiffany’s shift it would be seen as Tiffany’s exploitation of the courtesy key on the register.  Tiffany knew this and she was determined to use the key to her advantage not some tipsy mook who thought he was King showing off for his friends.

Sam had to lose that one because Tiffany was the one person in The Bar that T.O. would not fire.

There were a couple of episodes involving the waitresses that “larned him a lesson” of why that area was not going to be his either but that is not the purpose of this example of human frailty

T.O. came up with a good idea.

Charter a fishing boat!  Be the provider of sandwiches and beer!  Take a bunch of people out on San Francisco bay on a day-long fishing cruise.  Come up with a package price.

It was a Good idea, actually.  An idea like this could be a repeater!  Everybody has a great time…get baked more ways than one as you terrorize the denizens of the sea…

Then afterwards, off to The Bar for more drinking and camaraderie!  It could be an annual event requiring a larger boat each year!  Maybe even a Summertime Monthly thing if it caught on.

The beer was easy.

Now about the sandwiches…

He turned to his new Bar Manager.

“Sam!  I need you to make me a number of sandwiches for this fishing trip.  I’ve booked forty people for this thing.  Forty pre-paid packages.  Food, fun and fishing included.  You are to make sure we have enough sandwiches for forty people!  You can see to the bar.  Work the beer concession yourself if you want to.  Even with a no host drinking situation people will tip you lavishly”

The idea made good sense.  Sam had Deli experience; there was a full kitchen available to make the sandwiches…  So Sam took it a step farther.  Rather than delegate the sandwich making to the kitchen crew he would make the sandwiches himself!  T.O. would save labor costs.  Sam would be a hero!

T.O. was not aware of the increased drinking Sam had engaged in and even if he had been I’m not sure it would have made much difference.  The Bar was a bar after all.  People drink in a bar.  And all of the employees were aware that T.O. expected you to control your demons even if he sometimes did not control his.

Still, he was very concerned about having all this work right.

“Now I’m counting on you, Sam.  You have to have the sandwiches and three kegs of beer fresh out of the walk-in refrigerator, on that boat no later than 7:30 Saturday morning!  That’s a week away.  Do you think you can handle that?”

“I’ll Do It Chief!” said Sam the SuperBar Manager.

And the rest of the week the Sam, with liberal demands on the P.R. key, told the world of this project and how great his sandwiches were going to be.  Worth the cost of The Package all by themselves.  And he Sam was going to be the Hero and the Star of this enterprise make tons of money besides.

Sam got to where he was staying pretty late… On Friday, the eve of The Great Fishing Trip I came in and saw that Sam was pretty drunk.

“Um… Sam, have you made the sandwiches for this thing?” I asked.

“No.,” Sam said, “I have it all planned out.  I’m going to set my alarm early and make them in the morning so they’ll be really fresh.”

Saturday morning rolls around and I’m in there at eight in the morning as always getting the place ready to open.

I can’t help but notice that absolutely nothing has changed in the kitchen from the evening before.

The phone rings.

It’s Sam.

Sam had just woken up, badly hung over.

You saw that coming, too, didn’t you?

Well then, you also know the sandwiches were unmade.

And it’s eight in the morning.

If this had been a movie, a darkness would be drawn like a curtain across this scene. Symbolic shadows would be cast by circling buzzards…

Circling sharks might be a better analogy.

Because… Out There… in the Vast Reaches of the Pacific… was a boat containing T.O. and his forty pre-paid packages.  Wanting beer.  And sandwiches.

I had about six hours to visualize the situation and my imagination ran impossible but interesting scenarios trying to imagine what must have been going on.

T.O. finally came in.  By himself.  No happy entourage of revelers in tow…

He looked haggard, as if he had been chased all day by villagers carrying torches and pitchforks.

Since boats and fishing was involved perhaps it was being chased by villagers carrying fishing gaffs, harpoons and torches.

He somehow escaped with his life but narrowly avoided getting sued.  Several refunds were given.  Some customers were never seen again.

For weeks after no one was allowed to discuss it.   T.O.’s eyes would roll back in his head…he would start to shake. It took a great effort for him not to scream.

“It was ugly.” was about all anyone could get out of him.

No one said the word ‘fishing’ in his presence for a long time…

The post of Bar Manager was vacated.

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