There’s no denying that there’s an element of dedication to the game. It’s not easy to be on the other side of one of the world’s biggest nightlife scenes, and if I learned one thing, it’s that the money will never be enough on its own. To this day, that month serving cocktails produced the biggest paychecks in terms of dollars per hour that I’ve ever had my name on. But that wasn’t enough to keep me sane at 2am, when I was balancing a tray of martinis over my head as a male customer pulled on my shirt to ask what beers were on tap. It also wasn’t enough to be worth getting deliberately tripped by a female customer, sending a tray of drinks plummeting into my forehead.
"You see it all," admits Sanders. "I've personally broken up about 100 fights, but as a professional drinker I've never been in one. How mad do you have to be to hit someone in the head with a pint glass?"
“I think the highs and lows of working in the service industry are established from the fact that alcohol heightens people's mood and actions,” Ivy Mix reasons. “You see people at their absolute best and absolute worst, and that can be exhausting.”
"One night we cut this guy off at an event at our bar," Sanders recalls. "He got belligerent, we had to escort him to the door while he's screaming and cursing... he walks into the street, turns and punches the plate glass window. He shattered it, got arrested, had to pay restitution and almost lost his passport." These stories are not uncommon in the New York bar circuit. When alcohol is at work the spectrum of behavior stretches to extremes, from the aggressive to the sexual.
"I can't tell you how many places I've caught people having sex," Sanders says. "If there's a photo booth, a dark lounge, or a broom closet, it's going on. And it's not always funny. You're watching other people's lives unfold and you'll bear witness to more cheating than you'd think. You have to remind yourself that this isn't the normal world, this is drinking. If you don't know that and you don't develop a thick skin you'd never trust anyone."
So, not only does it take incredible physical stamina to have this job, but it's also about keeping a steady head when surrounded by adults reduced to animals. There will be fights, sex, drug use, customer entitlement, and general mayhem. It can feel impossible to handle, but then sleeves are rolled up and the job gets done.
And when all is said and done, when the lights in the bar come up and the patrons are kindly beckoned to peace the fuck out, there’s an element of satisfaction among the staff; a content feeling of a job well done. “Working in an NYC bar is a crazy dance, but if you can do it and have a good time, it’s a great one,” Settle says. “People here love to drink and if you make great drinks they will know. There is an energy to this city; we work hard and play hard! It’s a great rush if you can enjoy it.”