(Blogger’s Note:Every Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears in this space.)
After Kelly tossed the keys in my direction, my only option was to open the store. Little did I know, the toughest sentence ever spoken would be “Good Evening, can I fix you a drink?” It was followed by a very quiet “Please God, Gin and Tonic”. Yes, during those first few moments I really loved drinks whose names included developmental instruction.
In less than one week I had a crash course in the business. I was now capable of setting a table, selling drinks and wine, conversing with customers enough to make them comfortable, and I even knew how to order food and maneuver enough to get my entrée moved ahead of others on the line. That of course would take a few Vodka rocks from the bar for the chef. I was about to learn that I could also host one hell of a party. The other staff members had already been sent home. And now, I was opening Allen´s by myself.
My five c-notes were x-ed into the register just as Kelly did every night. I ordered seven large pizzas from across seven large pizzas from across the street, told them to leave them whole, and asked them to be delivered to the back door. I proceeded to set up the bar as though my father were having some neighbors over down in the basement rec room.
I had spent enough time in restaurants and saloons, as a kid and young adult to know how they were supposed to look. I figured out the functionality of the back bar which enabled me to serve drinks to people at both ends. I was I had spent enough time in restaurants and saloons, as a kid and young adult to know how they were supposed to look. I figured out the functionality of the back bar which enabled me to serve drinks to people at both ends. I was ready for battle. I figured I would have JG Melon´s cleared out by the end of Sixty Minutes.
The Pizzas showed up before the crowd. Just as I was getting them cut and ready to put on platters to place in the oven to stay warm, two guys from Melon´s showed up. They both ordered drinks and as I made them I began to tell the story about how I got the keys to Allen´s and got to be the bartender.
I brought out the pizza. More people showed up. Within an hour the bar was full. I jackpotted Robin, a single woman who I had met at Melon´s to put on an apron and serve the pizzas. I had my first waitress. The group laughed, played the jukebox and had a Sunday night full of fun. The drinks were poured a bit heavier than normal, but I wasn´t a real bartender. The food didn´t quite do the job so the pour had to be a bit more convincing than normal.
The new New York bartender and his waitress wrung up a total of over 1200.00 that night. Not a bad take for the first bartending shift ever worked.
At the end of the evening there wasn´t a clean glass in the place. The tables were cluttered with empty pizza platters, plates, ashtrays filled to their brim. All were left where they lay to make a point. I hid the money, locked the front door, and took Robin to Melon´s to celebrate my marketing victory.
On Monday, Kelly, Cobb and I all arrived at Allen´s at the same time. Cobb´s jaw dropped when he walked through the door.
"What the hell went on here last night." he asked.
"Nothing, I opened without a waitress or a dishwasher. I was too tired to clean up. I was the bartender, host,
manager, chef, and until Robin, my new waitress got here, I had to serve the customers." I said.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Cobb asked.
"You told me to open, so I did."
"We thought you´d go home." Kelly said.
"Well, you thought wrong. There´s a little over twelve hundred bucks in the ice machine."
"Christ, are you serious? Why didn´t you take your money out?" Cobb asked.
"I did. That was the ring for the night."
"Well Kelly it looks like we filled our night bartender´s slot. The kid has a following. As soon as we can find a replacement for Foley let´s put him on the bar and you at the door. Capra can float on busy nights. That way we can always jackpot Foley for the floor if we get slammed and you can go back behind the bar." Cobb said.
My plan worked. I didn´t think I would be the bartender when I began buying drinks, but I knew that personality marketing worked in the restaurant business.
In one week´s time I had moved from unemployed playwright, to ignorant waiter, to unqualified bartender, in one of the busiest restaurant cities in the world with more professional waiters and waitresses than anyone could ever imagine. I had a night gig, on the Upper East Sideof New York with three veteran saloon guys who used to have Peter Duchin, Frank Sinatra, Ted Kennedy and a number of other celebrities at their New Year´s Eve parties. And, a few other types whose pictures didn´t grace the walls – at least at Allen´s.