Since we’ve been back in Northern Ireland, Robin and I have been checking out the nightlife one bar at a time to get a sense of what’s big on the North Coast right now (cocktails are huge, unfortunately, good cocktails are not). Not being totally sure whether we want to hop back into the bar scene or try something else for a change, we’ve been keeping our options open.
Every time we’ve talked about the local nightlife we’ve heard conflicting reports about a stalwart venue that’s been there for years before I was sneaking in at 16 to get drunk on blue WKD (Alcopops…I’m not proud of it, but it happened) and despite many face lifts and redesigns over the years, it’s always been my go-to place for a good night out, I even worked there for a brief period before my move to Sweden. The rumour mill was churning out news that the place had switched owners and the changes made by the new proprietors left something to be desired so on Friday evening we decided to go check it out for ourselves.
At this point, this post could easily diverge into a rant about how different the place seemed now. A barely inhabited restaurant where once it would’ve been full and so on, but I’m not a food critic, nor a mixologist extraordinaire. There are better qualified people than me to review places, and I’ll leave it to them. I’ll stick to what I do know; customer service.
We’d been in there long enough to order two drinks and grab a seat (we were spoiled for choice) before a man no older than us entered. He approached the male and female bartenders behind the bar and it quickly became apparent that he was here for his first shift. Robin and I drank our first pints reminiscing of our first nights working behind the bar and how terrified we had been. Both of us had started in busy nightclub scenarios and were a little envious of this new guy getting to relax into the role, rather than being thrown in at the deep end.
We finished our first drinks and decided to go sit at the bar and strike some conversation. The female bartender was the first to talk to us. She’d only been working there a week and a half, but she seemed to be enjoying it. The male bartender, who I’ll assume from his air of superiority was the shift manager stood in the corner of the bar the entire time, watching his
peons, subjugates, coworkers with eagle eyes. She poured us another drink and disappeared to do something somewhere else when the new guy appeared. Robin and I quickly realised that this was someone was little bar-tending experience, so we struck up conversation with him to offer a little moral support as fellow workers in the industry. He was polite, friendly and sociable and managed to keep conversation flowing even as he carried on learning the bar and making drinks for other guests. We gave him a couple of pointers and the more we talked with him, the more you could see him relax into the role. He was asking his co-workers questions, apologizing to customers if he made a mistake and quickly getting the help he needed to correct them. All in all, he was doing a much better job than Robin or I ever did on our first night. That’s possibly the reason why what happened next had such a strong effect on the two of us.
He excused himself from our company to go and do some things out the back, we wished him good luck and one last time reaffirmed him that he was doing a good job so far. As soon as he left the bar, the female bartender came scurrying back to the assumed manager and the two of them instantly began making fun of the new guy in full view of us and the few other patrons sat at the bar. They made no effort to hide their jests and we sat and listened, mouths wide, as they belittled this new guy for the mistakes he made, or the knowledge he lacked.
Now, it would be almost understandable if this were some high-end cocktail lounge serving only the finest crafted drinks, but its a bar that does cocktails, and if the frozen daiquiri we watched the manager make is anything to go by, its a bar that does sub-par cocktails. We couldn’t believe what we were hearing, not as customers, but as people working in the industry.
Bartending is not an easy job, and often its a thankless one. We often take a lot of completely undeserved flac from customers over things they think they know something about. But to hear it come from co-workers in such a loud, unabashed manner was on the verge of disgusting. We actually had to leave the place before we started saying something in our tipsy haze. It was the height of unprofessionalism in a place that holds many great memories for myself.
We’ve both wondered if the new guy is still working there, a part of me hopes he isn’t. There are better bars in the area, and I’d hate to see the potential we saw in him wasted somewhere where they’re too busy making jokes about him behind his back to help him grow. Either way, we won’t be going back anytime soon to find out.
I guess if I were to impose a moral on this story, it would be that your words can have an effect, even when you don’t think anyone is listening. We have all been new at something one time or another; something that is too easily forgotten, indeed its something those two bartenders should have remembered. Pointing fingers and laughing doesn’t help anyone regardless of what side of the bar your on, or what situation you’re in, period.
This post was inspired by Daily Prompt: Heard