For some reason I have a lot of friends that are bartenders. It’s not really all that hard to have friends who are bartenders here in New York, as there are a ton of bars and it’s a good job to have if you have other endeavors that aren’t yet financially viable (i.e. any creative pursuit). Now, when you first hear that I have a lot of bartender friends, you may think “Oh man that must be so awesome” or “Jeez dude, are you an alcoholic?” Well to answer your questions, yes, it is awesome, and so I like to have a chardonnay every once in a while. What are you, my life coach?
What’s great about having a bartender for a friend is that it immediately gives your friend-circle a place to hang out that isn’t biased towards a specific friend (like going to someone’s place would be), but is also a welcoming environment (as opposed to just saying ‘hey let’s go to a random bar where people may be dicks). Plus, if your friend is even remotely decent and bartending, he or she probably has a fairly solid network of friends/regulars, so you immediately have access to meeting a bunch of people. In fact, the vast majority of my friends can be traced back to my friend Lesli who works at Fresh Salt, which is scary when I think about how one person could drastically change my social life if she wanted to (but comforting when you know that she’d never do that ‘cause she’s the bestest everest).
There’s also jumping the line at cool places from time to time. If you have a bartender friend that’s at New York’s hottest dance club, there’s a chance they’ll be able to get you in. I actually don’t know if that works at the hottest dance club per se, as I’m not allowed within a 2-block radius of any place deemed “hot.” But I know it happens.
And then of course, the golden ticket of bartender friendship is free or discounted drinks. This doesn’t happen all the time (rest easy, bar owners of the world). But the possibility that you get a drink or a shot on the house is certainly greater when you know the bartender. Especially if you’re there for a considerable amount of time. Which tends to happen a lot when you’re hanging out with your friends and that includes the person behind the bar.
But, as the title of this little piece of literary magic deftly points out, being friends with a bartender is not all glitz and glamour. There is a dark underbelly to this relationship. For instance, while you have a central place to hang out, and for the most part it’s a cool place, it’s still hanging out at a bar. I’m not sure if you become a bar fly first and then befriend a bartender, or vice versa, but either way if you’re friends with a bartender you’re probably in a bar a lot. So you can tire of going to that bar, or bars in general (yeah, it’s crazy and I didn’t believe it, either).
Also, while you’re still able to hang with your friend while he or she is at the bar, they’re still working. I know that if all my friends hung out with me at my job it’d be cool, but I’d also not be able to enjoy it as much ‘cause, well, I’m at work. Plus it would be weird to see my friends hanging out in a hallway and watch me wax the floors (janitor joke? check!). You may think that hanging out with your friend at the bar while he or she works is up to me. I could also hang out with them when they’re not working and why don’t I lay off the peach schnapps for a while?
Well, nosypants, that highlights the next part of the dark underbelly (and I happen to like peach schnapps!). Which is that bartenders have almost the complete opposite schedule to most jobs. Hell, there are a fair amount of people who are going to work when bartenders are on their way home. So just seeing your bartender friend during the day becomes tricky. I mean if they’re getting a solid 8 hours they’re generally not up until like 2pm or something. And from my experience their days off are hectic too, since those are the only times for them to take care of all the stuff that they didn’t get to address while working. This is my least favorite part of being friends with a bartender. Not because it’s their fault, I just want to hang with them when they have the ability to let their hair down, as it were.
And finally, there’s the golden ticket of the dark side of a bartending friendship, which is free or discounted drinks. There are some days that I go to the bar to hang out with people, and I’m not looking to get drunk (for real, though). I mean they’re not a lot of days, but they do exist. This is nearly impossible if you go to a bar where your friend works. ‘Cause you’ll know the bartender, and you’ll be there for a considerable amount of time, so you’re probably going to be drinking more than anticipated. My bartender friends are devilishly talented at this. They’ll coax me out by saying “You know, you don’t have to drink to hang out with me.” And before I know it, there’s a shot in front of me.
And they know I can’t say “no” to peach schnapps.