Ask a Bartender: What's the Worst Part of Your Job?

Ask a Bartender

You ask, they answer.

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Michael Lazar of Hog & Rocks in San Francisco

There are obvious perks to being a bartender: A highly social work environment. The opportunity to be creative. And of course, access to fabulous drinks. But just as with any job, there are downsides. We asked bartenders across the country: What's the worst part of your job?

Here's what they had to say.

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Beau du Bois of The Corner Door in LA

"It's having to explain, time and time again, how I can't serve you without an ID. Trust me, I want to sell you booze. And no, your friend/spouse/significant other can't vouch for you. I wish it were that easy." — Beau du Bois (The Corner Door)

"When a guest orders something from our kitchen that smells particularly awesome, I have to stand there and smell it and get super hungry." — Kiel Schecich (SideDoor)

"Wiping down all the bottles in the well and speed rails at the end of each shift, night after night. You get to know some of those bottles really, really well." — Michael Lazar (Hog and Rocks)

"Rude people. Hangovers." —John Cummins (The Dawson Lounge)

"There isn't one. Totally serious. I'm madly in love with my job." — Jason Eisner (Gracias Madre)

"The hours. Five years ago I wouldn't have said that, but I wish people partook in more day drinking..." — Nate Howell (Jsix)

"I truly love my job, but to see a bartender (whether I'm a customer or a co-worker), snidely comment over someone's preferred drinking/eating habits drives me to murder." — Chris Burkett (Cusp Dining & Drinks)


Meaghan Dorman of Raines Law Room in NYC [Photo: Aliza Eliazarov/Star Chefs]

"Like any job, bartending has its less desirable qualities—for example, waking up feeling like you got hit by a truck. It's a physical job and a few busy nights in a row can hurt. But 95% of the time it's rewarding and such a fun creative outlet that I take a yoga class and get back the bar." — Meaghan Dorman (Raines Law Room)

"When I don't have guests sitting at my bar. It's the WORST!" — Pamela Wiznitzer (The Dead Rabbit)

"If I had to say something, it's the schedule: always having to work on the weekends when your friends have it off, missing concerts, things like that." — Sean Still (Mercadito Chicago)

"Running out of glassware during a busy dinner service. I'd rather not serve the drink or wait all night for clean glasses than put it in the wrong one. Consistency is so critical for success." — Jason Lakow (Amali)

"The only drawback on my job is the long hours, and they're not even that long. As a new father, it's tough staying away from the family!" — Jeff Faile (Iron Gate, Red Apron, Birch & Barley)

"I absolutely love what I do. That being said, I'm really tired of breaking down the bar at the end of the night. I've gotten to the point where I can admit that I'm just tired of doing it. " — Rene Hidalgo (Lantern's Keep)


Brian Means of Dirty Habit in San Francisco

"I'm not a huge fan of putting in several hours of inventory. I wish it would magically be done sometimes." — Brian Means (Dirty Habit)

"Having to cut someone off. But sometimes it's a matter of liability. Who wants to tell a grown man or woman you've had enough—you can't drink anymore? It's awkward for everyone." — Holly Hart (A.G. Kitchen)

"Impatient customers." — Tommy Shani (Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel)

"Not having Sundays off. Bartenders like to relax too!" — Ray Anguiano (Atwood Café)

"When it's slow. I can only wipe down my bottles so many times. I need to keep busy! I often use down time to experiment with new cocktails, but there's only so much R&D I can do before I feel like I'm drinking on the job." — Jesse Cornell (Sbraga)

"The rude or condescending guest. Who wants to take care of someone who doesn't have the decency to treat a person with respect?" — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)

"We do spend a lot of hours on our feet." — Kamal Kouiri (Molyvos)


Andy Nelson of Jackson 20 in Alexandria, VA

"Inventory...especially on New Year's Eve!" — Andy Nelson (Jackson 20)

"I find very little to complain about my job, but it'd be great if we could call a 'time-out' every once in a while for a quick snack and/or restroom break—but that's pretty unrealistic." — Kevin Dowell (Foreign Cinema)

"Some people think of my job as menial labor and treat me like a servant when they find out what I do. They assume that I am uneducated and also that I am an aspiring 'something' (actress, model, musician, etc) and that I'm only bartending to make money until I am discovered. I don't like that. I really don't." — Cari Hah ( City Tavern )

"Inventory. And Friday happy hour." — Jon Harris (Firefly)

"The worst part of my job used to be my favorite part, and that is the late hours. As I grow into an adult, I'd like to spend more time with the wife at a decent hour. Although there is something soothing about a nice quiet drive home with no traffic at four in the morning." — Eric Johnson (Sycamore Den)